Directed by: Michael Showalter
Written by: Aaron Abrams & Brendan Gall
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae, Paul Sparks, Anna Camp, Kyle Bornheimer
Having a good relationship with another person becomes a manner of subjectivity for any couple because everyone has a different standard. It cannot be measured on pure numbers like how often they fight, make love, or agree on certain topics. Maybe it takes getting involved in a truly strange and life-changing experience to finally view this exact sentiment.
Leilani (Issa Rae) and Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) have been dating for four years and their fire has escaped them as they go about their days together missing the passion they once had in spades after their first date. On a night where their relationship essentially planned to come to an end, they get themselves involved in a situation where a man gets killed in front of them and the killer seems to be after them.
Some scripts do not deserve the actors who take the lines they’re given and raise it to a level one could not imagine, which happens to be the case for The Lovebirds. What comes from a tired and unoriginal story, we have Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae exhibiting such an extreme amount of charm and comedic presence to make even the most basic moments of a movie something with the ability to make me chuckle. I can only imagine what these two could have done with a better story.
The plot of the story essentially revolves around their issues, as they tangled up with a murder, where it appears they are responsible except for a man hijacking their vehicle and continuously running someone over. It then turns the story into them trying to figure out who the murderer is and why he killed the random man on a bicycle. They certainly bite off more than they can chew, as they were not prepared for the people involved and what they are willing to do.
Comedically, everything relies on the ridiculousness of the scenarios and how Jibran and Leilani react to it all. If only, any of it had a hint of originality to it. Fortunately, as stated before, the two leads truly brought their talents and let it shine, especially Issa Rae. Admittedly, I have not experienced much of her work, but her performance in the film displayed incredible comedic timing and an excellent gauge for the truly weird things happening to these characters. Her character, Leilani, wants more spontaneity in their love life, which can happen in relationships. When people stay together for a period of time, habits and routines begin to form. For people like me, it shows a sign of maturity and closeness for a couple, but for others, it displays a level of boredom they never want to experience. Rae’s reactions to certain sequences in the film elevate what was given in the written script, but the best moments feel as if they were improvisational moments added by her.
Kumail Nanjiani continues his ascent with his new perfectly-chiseled physique and he shines once again as a comedic force in comedies. While his more reserved performance in The Big Sick remains his best work, he does well with work more akin to something as dreadful as Stuber. In the case of The Lovebirds, he has a stronger partner and a much better story idea, which allowed him to be more chaotic and apply his comedic sensibilities to a rather lame screenplay.
The film struggles with its complete unoriginality and how it refuses to show something we have not seen before. You could predict line-by-line how each scene would play out, which took away from the experience, but it did have several moments that genuinely made me laugh. One of the best comes from a scene with a cop car driving by, which highlights why this film remains important. They’re afraid of being found by the police because they appear to be suspects and one patrol car drives by them and the officer intensely stares at them. It then shows the cop does not think they’re suspects, he just stared them down because he’s a racist, which Jibran and Leilani point out. A moment, which reminds you how rare it is for a mainstream romantic comedy to star two non-white folks, particularly of different races. The film does not make a big deal about it because it’s set in New Orleans, but the moment with the officer gives a stern reminder of how most romantic comedies center on white relationships and they never have to fear a cop being racist towards them.
The Lovebirds carries many flaws, but it demonstrates the need for more romantic comedies focused on other non-white couples. It shows Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani can make even the most unoriginal script something enjoyable to watch with their boisterous performances. New Orleans provides a great backdrop for the nonsense these characters find themselves in and it makes for a fun and weightless comedy.