I’MMMMM BACKKKKK. As some of you may have noticed, I have been pretty absent from the blog lately. Working from home has been taking a toll and I find it difficult to pull out my computer to write on the weekends after spending eight hours a day on my computer working. But, with the news that we will be working from home even longer now, I figure it was time to suck it up and dive back in. To be totally honest, I also just haven’t found anything to watch that I wanted to write about. I have been intrigued by The Lovebirds though since we saw the first trailer and I am happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it.
As the title suggests, the film follows Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae), a couple who have come to a turning point in their relationship. They are then tossed into a twisty murder mystery that forces them to work together. Let me just begin by saying that the chemistry that exists between Nanjiani and Rae is the saving grace of this story. I am really not sure any other dou could have pulled off the natural relationship that these two had on screen. I think the other reason that I enjoyed these two together so much is because their dynamic really reminded me of Nate and I. There is a brilliant scene at the beginning where the two are fighting like any normal couple does. It isn’t about anything serious, but it is real. It is a fight we can all relate to and see ourselves having with our significant other. I think that is the brilliance of the casting here. These two actors are so effortless together on screen it really makes it easy for anyone in a relationship to relate to.
I wish I could continue singing the praises of this film. Honestly though, the good stops at the performances given by Nanjiani and Rae. There are definitely some funny moments throughout. However, the script feels forced and contrived. There are bits that go on too long and choices made that force the viewer into questioning the authenticity of the characters. For what this film is the plot is also unnecessarily complex at times. I still have questions about certain aspects of the adventure these two went on. I understand that as the viewer you have to be able to suspend a certain level of disbelief. It was more than that though. There are decisions that the characters make just for the laugh, not because the character would actually make that choice or because it would be beneficial to the situation they have found themselves in. I know I just kind of shit on the whole movie, but I do promise it is still worth a watch.
The last thing I want to address is a larger problem that I have with films in this genre. I am going to do my best to not spoil the ending here, but you can see it coming from a mile away. Why do films always have to have a happy ending? Why do couples always have to fall back into love? Why does everyone need to be happy when the credits roll? That is not how life works. Not all relationships last. We aren’t all lucky enough to end up with the person we should. And there are bigger problems in life that do not just disappear because people go on an adventure together. Personally, I don’t mind a messy ending. I prefer it. It leaves the viewer something to think about and creates a sense of realness that traditional happy endings never can.
On a different note, I enjoyed being able to watch a new movie again. I just wish this film had more to offer than a couple of good performances. I will say though, it makes me very excited for the other films being released on streaming platforms this year.
The Lovebirds benefits from the chemistry of its very game stars, Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani. There are many scenes in this film that work only because of the presence of these gifted performers. The material they are forced to sell by Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall’s script is often too outlandish to be pardoned even by the film’s mix of screwball and slapstick. Nanjiani stole a great of the show in summer 2017 thanks to his previous collaboration with director Michael Showalter, The Big Sick. I have no doubt he and Rae could have done the same this summer, if not for a script that phones in the conclusion to this couples’ squabbles within the film’s first few minutes and also asks us, on may occasions, to believe that a hardened killer would take twenty to thirty minutes to execute our protagonists, which conveniently gives them time to work on their escape.
Look, this is an action comedy, and I can forgive a lot. Blending crime and comedy can work well. One of my favorite comedies of the past decade is 21 Jump Street (and its sequel). The blend of crime and comedy in those films worked well in part because the script got big laughs out of pointing out how absurd its plot points were. There’s no such awareness here, and we’re expected to forgive development after development that makes little sense.
There are a few worthwhile scenes. The first 10 minutes or so detail the beginning of Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani’s (Rae) relationship, and then skips ahead a bit to show them arguing over many trivial matters, the way people in long term relationships often do. Of course, there are more serious issues below the surface, and this relationship seems doomed, so of course we know that the wild events of the upcoming night are going to change their minds. If that’s a spoiler, you didn’t pay any attention to the trailer. Anyway, these early scenes are the most honest and fun parts of the film. Once Jibran and Leilani begin running from the law, there are really only two bits that pay off. One is when they break into an apartment full of “fuckbois” and interrogate one of them. The other is when their search for the real killer leads to a cultish orgy. The latter is a refreshingly random left turn in a film that otherwise offers little in the way of surprises.
The script’s attempts to explore dysfunctional romantic relationships are also quite weak. I certainly would never want relationship advice from Abrams and Gall, who include a scene where Leilani discovers her married friends aren’t as happy as they appear. The inclusion of this moment acts as an epiphany of sorts for Leilani, but a bad one. It seems to suggest that if some couples are highly dysfunctional, maybe she should embrace her dysfunctional relationship with Jibran. It’s a trite approach to exploring a complex issue. Some couples have quirky ways of communicating that work, but some people probably shouldn’t be together, and I wasn’t convinced by the end of The Lovebirds that this couple had worked out their problems.
I would like to see Rae and Nanjiani work together again sometime. They make The Lovebirds worth a watch despite its flaws. Just don’t expect anything other than a formulaic (and short) bit of escapism with a few laughs.