The Lovebirds is the latest film whose release was diverted from theaters to a Netflix premiere due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. The romantic-comedy-murder-mystery from Paramount Pictures is directed by Michael Showalter and written by Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall. The Lovebirds stars Issa Rae (Insecure, The Photograph) and upcoming Marvel’s The Eternals star Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley, Stuber) as Leilani and Jibran, the weathered couple on the brink of breaking up who are thrust into a wild adventure.
The Lovebirds starts off at the very beginning of Leilani and Jibran’s relationship. As they are parting ways at what seems to be the morning after their first date, they are clearly smitten with one another. The start of the film really pours on romance elements with montages flirtatious giggles and cute banter about “I want to kiss you faces”. Then, in the blink of an eye, the film jumps to four years later and the flames of romance have all but fizzled out. Now the not-so-happy couple is at each other’s throats in a heated argument whether or not they could win the Amazing Race.
But this argument is about more than just their ability or inability to make it through a reality TV show competition. It’s about whether or not their relationship can make it. It is clear that over the four years a divide has formed between the couple and now they’ve just reached a point of deciding if they are done or not. On their way to a dinner party they get entangled in a bizarre murder mystery that leaves them looking like the guilty party. Feeling no one would believe their side of the story, they decide to clear their names by solving the case themselves.
The Lovebirds is not quite in the same vein as other films that use the mistaken identity trope, such as Date Night or the Hitchcock classic North By Northwest. However, it does give a refreshing take to this trope. After the mustached man who claimed to be a cop commandeered their car to chase and literally run down a man. Leilani and Jibran are left with the realization that they just witnessed a murder. Meanwhile when another couple passes by they are immediately mistaken as the murderers. They decide to flee the scene of the crime out fear that no one would believe their bizarre story and because no one would give them the benefit of the doubt as a result of racially motivated prejudice.
I liked that the film makes it very clear that Leilani and Jibran’s fears of being wrongfully convicted because their race is a very real factor for them and the odds don’t seem to be exactly in their favor. It is important that the film acknowledges race as a deciding factor for the character to flee from the crime scene. Because just like most people of color in the real world, Leilani and Jibran are aware of their races and how they are perceived by others at all times.
She’s a Black Woman and he is a Pakistani man who live in the South, specifically New Orleans. To top it all off they panicked and fled a crime scene which definitely makes them look even more guilty. So it is understandable why they thought to try to solve the murder themselves was their best option at the moment.
I also think by acknowledging race in the film it shows that it is different from two white people being accused of murder and running from cops versus two people of color. For example, there is a scene in the film where Leilani and Jibran notice a cop car slowly approaching them in a parking lot. The cop stares them down intensely with prejudice and pre-conceived notions.
The couple thinks the cop recognizes them and that they are about to get arrested. Luckily he just drives up close to them and continues to stare them down as he drives off. Jibran then lets out a relaxed sigh and says, “Oh he’s just a regular racist”, while Leilani is thankful that’s all that he was. This scene showed that our characters are aware that cops will just assume they are up to something or guilty just based on their race. While on the other hand had the roles been played by two white actors, a police officer would most likely have paid them any mind.
I found the plot interesting for the most part. The film takes the audience, much like the main characters, on a bizarre ride for the evening. The plot involves a brutal murder, an intricate blackmail scheme, police corruption, and an underground sex cult. However, while I enjoyed the plot I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing.
For me that something was the characters. Don’t get me wrong, Rae and Nanjiani are fantastic together, and I liked them in their roles. However, while I liked the characters there wasn’t enough thought put into them. It felt I had to fill in some gaps about them from what is said in their conversations. We know that Leilani, works at an ad agency, success is important to her, and a bit too worried about what other people think. She wants more spontaneity in their relationship. Meanwhile, Jibran is a documentary filmmaker who is a bit overprotective of his work and tends to come off as judgemental and pretentious.
They’re both quirky and nerdy in their own way, while those are probably the reasons why they initially fell in love with one another. And after four years of being together, a divide has formed between them. It would have been nice to see more development of them on their own and together in their relationship seen on the screen instead of filling the gaps myself. However, with a runtime of 87 minutes, there doesn’t seem to be much time to fit those moments and development into the film
The chemistry between Nanjiani and Rae is what really makes the movie for me. In my opinion the film relies heavily on Rae and Nanjiani’s performances. If anyone else were in their roles, I would not find the film as entertaining. They make a great comedy duo that plays very well off one another, which is impressive since this film was the first time they ever worked together.
It’s not just the funny moments that they work well together in, but also the romantic and dramatic moments as well. Rae and Nanjiani’s performance as lovestruck lovebirds is just as good and believable as when they are in heated break-up arguments. I will credit the writers for some of the most biting lines during their arguments but is Nanjiani and Rae’s deliveries in those arguments that make them so believable.
Lastly, I found it refreshing to see a romantic comedy centered on a non-white interracial couple. It has been proven Black Women and Asian Men face a lot of dating bias. Dating sites such as OkCupid have conducted studies that found that Black Women and Asian Men are rated as less attractive than other races and ethnicities. So to have to a film stars both a Black Woman and an Asian Man in the leading roles is awesome to see for representation and just a breath of fresh air from them typically being cast as the “sassy Black Best Friend” or “Nerdy Asian Friend” stereotypical rom-com roles.
Overall, I enjoyed The Lovebirds and found it to be pretty entertaining and a fun ride. It doesn’t disappoint, but it did leave me feeling like something was missing with characters. However, I will say it is better than some of the more recent rom-coms I’ve seen. At the end of the day what makes the film so enjoyable for me is Rae and Nanjiani. They give a stellar performance and make one heck of a comedy duo and their chemistry together is great.
The Lovebirds is available on Netflix now.
Overall, I enjoyed The Lovebirds and found it to be pretty entertaining and a fun ride. It doesn’t disappoint, but it did leave me feeling like something was missing with characters. However, I will say it is better than some of the more recent rom-coms I’ve seen. At the end of the day what makes the film so enjoyable for me is Rae and Nanjiani. They give a stellar performance and make one heck of a comedy duo, and their chemistry together is great.