Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae’s chemistry carries light rom-com ‘The Lovebirds’

With movie theaters currently closed, production has halted on current films and those scheduled for theatrical release were pushed to future dates as far as next year or were looking to video on demand and streaming to push out these movies. The Lovebirds, originally scheduled for a wide theatrical release had its rights sold to Netflix to release the film digitally. Considering the two leads, I was excited to see this movie in theaters, but I think the comfort of watching it from my couch made it better.

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Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) have been together for years, but have hit a rough patch and ultimately defining moment in their relationship when they are unintentionally caught up in a murder mystery.

With romantic comedies, there is usually a balance between the comedy and the romance so there might be something for everyone in the audience. Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae are so believable as a couple with real chemistry. They just click so well that you pull for them so quickly, but they work so well as friends in early part of the film that you assume the boyfriend-girlfriend part is going to be as easy. A small four year time leap forward (that doesn’t need to be explored) shows they are in an unpleasant partnership, growing increasingly frustrated with each other. What’s the best way to reconcile a couple? Get them involved into a criminal conspiracy. Who needs couples therapy when you can go on the run and try not to get murdered to clear your name?

Their ride to a dinner party is commandeered by a man (Paul Sparks), who claims to be a cop chasing a bike-riding criminal, take the wheel and then proceeds to commit vehicular manslaughter the man like he’s a professional at it. Knowing their car is now a murder weapon – and the knowledge that the innocence of a brown-skinned couple covered in the blood of a dead man may not get them a pass – they panic and go on the lam. From there, they decide to play DIY detectives to crack the case of the mowed-down bike-rider before the police catch up to them.

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This movie is not deep; the small story arc of finding the killer sends the couple racing around New Orleans from some kind of urban bar to fraternity apartments, neon dive bars, and even a Eyes Wide Shut-style set up. Again, the main focus is this couple, who bicker and banter during their adventure, poking at their tender weak spots, but knowing how to work together too after years of being together.

The Lovebirds – like Game Night, Date Night, and other romantic escapades before it – relies on the chemistry between the two leads to carry the rest of the film without letting it fall into a deep hole of nonsense. The actor-director Michael Showalter (who also helped Nanjiani’s 2017 breakout movie The Big Sick) lets the one-liners fly. If they land and you laugh, success; if not, they are already forgotten and you move on.

While this movie isn’t original or fresh, having two leads of color taking on all of the rom-com mystery tropes makes it feel modern as they are. Some of the jokes might not land and the slapstick antics might not gel with everyone, but it’s more than sweet enough to make this an enjoyable watch.

What are your thoughts on The Lovebirds? Do you think this movie was better suited for Netflix than the theaters? Hopefully you all give this movie a chance!

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