The Big Sick (2017) turned out to be one of the breakout comedies of the last couple of years. The film was able to bring about the star-making performances from Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani, as well as showcasing a new adept hand at comedic directing with Michael Showalter. Thus when it was announced that star Nanjiani and Showalter would be teaming up again for another comedy, cinephiles’ ears perked up.
The Lovebirds (2020) is the story of a couple Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae), who seem to be at the ends of their relationship. However, when they are thinking of breaking things up, they are sucked into a murder mystery possibly involving a mysterious cult.
The Lovebirds will likely go down in history, not because of the quality of filmmaking, but because of its release after the effects of COVID-19. Originally set to be released in theaters by Paramount, the shuttering of movie theaters in most of the world forced the decades-old studio to sell the rights to Netflix – in hopes of recouping some of the film costs. Sadly, the film doesn’t stand out in many other aspects.
Both Nanjiani and Rae have proven themselves to be hilarious comedians, especially when they write their own material such as Rae with her show Insecure (2016-) and Nanjiani with his Oscar-nominated screenplay for The Big Sick. The Lovebirds only uses them as performers, and the quality of the successive plot and jokes suffers because of it. While the premise of normal people getting involved in an increasingly complicated conspiracy is funny, and has been done well before (look no further than Game Night (2018)), its conception and execution here seems much more predictable and rather rushed. The film doesn’t even clock at one hour and 30 mins, making the finale and emotional conclusion incredibly shallow. Even so, the film doesn’t feel short with the short runtime being a savior of your patience.
Director Showalter isn’t able to revive much of the stale script; instead we are only relieved when both Rae and Nanjiani seem to improvise scenes, almost as if they started doing stand-up in the middle of the film. While this severely halts the rhythm of the film (commenting on car cigarette lighters), it does provide the best laughs of the entire narrative. Showalter is able to edit his film well, to highlight his actors’ comedic timing, and Rae and Nanjiani prove to have an incredible chemistry. This latter part, in turn, helps their relationship and tribulations feel all the more realistic, and makes us as viewers care about their stakes in the story.
However, The Lovebirds doesn’t prove to break out as a comedy as much as Showalter’s other work had led us to expect. There will for sure be a reason behind the lower laugh ratio, relating to seeing the film at home instead of the more laugh-prone theater. However, as a whole The Lovebirds only proves to be something light to pass the time, but as soon as the credits roll you will forget what the film was even about.