The Lovebirds (2020)

The Lovebirds poster.jpeg
Director: Michael Showalter
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Certification: 15
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae, Paul Sparks, Anna Camp, Kyle Bornheimer, Kelly Murtagh, Moses Storm, Barry Rothbart, Aaron Abrams

Affected by the current state of the world, the latest film by director Michael Showalter was intended to be theatrically released by Paramount Pictures in early April. The rights were sold to Netflix, where it's been released a month and a half later than intended, where the world can view it while under isolation. The story follows Jibrani and Leilani (Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae), a couple on the edge of splitting up who are thrown for a loop, when they witness a murder. Not wanting to be wrongly accused for it, they go on the run, intending to find the real culprit.

In the films opening moments, we take a look at the early stages of the main relationship, as the romance blossoms while they spend the day together. The leads convey their burgeoning feelings well in this happy montage, even if they have to contend with cliched lines, before transitioning to four years later. We see the couple having heated arguments over inconsequential things, as the actors riff off each other in an improvisational way, which is an indicator of what's to come in the remains of this film.

If we look back at the prior two films directed by Michael Showalter, which were The Big Sick and Hello, My Name Is Doris. Considering how both of those features contained laugh out loud moments and emotional heft, it's understandable to expect those elements to recur here. What's most unfortunate, then, is how this film misses the mark in those circumstances. There hasn't been enough to garner investment into the central relationship, and the improvisational work struggles to raise a titter. It doesn't help how often the film falls back on making dated references, in the hopes that it'll stick, especially when they fall back on The Amazing Race as though it premiered in the past year or so.

Considering how wonderfully talented Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae, this is nothing short of an utter shame. They're a winning pair who get us to buy into their relationship, as best exemplified when they sing along to Katy Perry's Firework. It's moments like this which says more about their relationship than numerous arguments did beforehand. There's also a nice moment where they meet up with mutual friends, and through separate interactions, make their own realisations about relationships, and how there's more going on than we initially see. More moments like this would've been welcome, as opposed to being whittled down in favour of a half-cooked mystery. If you'd like a decent comedy about a couple trying to rekindle their relationship, who are then thrust into something way out of their depth, I recommend 2010's Date Night.

The Lovebirds is available to stream on Netflix.