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Film Review: The Lovebirds

27 May 20 words: George White

The Lovebirds was supposed to release in cinemas on April 3, but Paramount sold the distribution rights to Netflix after the outbreak of Coronavirus. Was it a worthy investment for the streaming site? George White finds out...

Director: Michael Showalter
Issa Rae, Kumail Nanjiani, Paul Sparks
Running time:
87 minutes

The Lovebirds is Netflix’s latest attempt to save film fans from absolute boredom during lockdown, as Hollywood remains closed and the doors of cinemas stay firmly shut. And, while director Michael Showalter’s action-comedy certainly has nothing on the likes of The Irishman and Roma in terms of award-winning quality, this movie does offer enough to provide nearly 90 minutes of mindless escapism. It isn’t groundbreaking stuff, but in these desperate times it is enough to lift the spirits. Which, let’s face it, is what we all need right now.  

The film follows Leilani (Issa Rae) and Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) as they find themselves unwilling accomplices in the murder of a bike messenger, and decide that they have no choice but to go on the run to avoid time in prison. It sounds an interesting idea, but the narrative beats have been trodden to death thousands of times before, with the whole ‘hapless couple on the run’ premise feeling slightly tired. Despite the writers’ attempts to revitalise the story with unique scenarios and amusing moments, the movie fails to impact the audience emotionally as key plot points feel predictable and uninteresting. 

That said, the amusing moments are usually effective, leading to a regular stream of genuine hilarity throughout the film’s tight runtime. For the most part the comedy is brilliant, with subtle jokes and original comedic beats making this a blast to watch, on occasion. Seeing Leilani and Jibran splurt out absolute gibberish as they try to explain the bike messenger’s dead body to passing bystanders is truly tremendous, and feels reminiscent of the chaotic playfulness of movies like Game Night

The chemistry between the leading duo provides the heart and humour of the film

The film’s enjoyability is largely down to the impressive talent of Nanjiani and Rae, whose chemistry is delightfully entertaining. Nanjiani continues to prove himself as one of the most competent comedians in the industry, delivering each line of dialogue with enjoyable ease. Yet Rae is easily the star of the show, her facial expressions and natural charm making this one of the funniest performances of the year. The chemistry between the two provides the heart and humour of the film; in other hands, these characters could easily become tiresome and annoying, but due to the performances of the leading duo, the childish naiveté of the pair proves a treat. 

Some of The Lovebirdsdialogue is a little on-the-nose, though, which often threatens to undermine its enjoyability. Where the more subtle, improvised elements of the movie are fantastic, the characters’ more brash, expletive-laden outbursts feel a little cheap. I’m as big a fan of swear words as any, but - as this year’s Guy Ritchie film The Gentlemen so clearly proved - the simple act of swearing in itself does not constitute comedy, which is something that the film’s writing team sometimes seem to forget. 

While far from perfect, this funny, light-hearted flick packs enough laughs to make it worthwhile. Through the delightful chemistry of its gifted leads, The Lovebirds provides enough enjoyable moments to achieve what it sets out to do - entertain. The narrative may feel overly familiar, and some jokes may go too far, but this film is definitely fun.

Did you know? Kumail Nanjiani decided to start his stand-up career after being impressed by Hugh Grant's performance in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

The Lovebirds is now available on Netflix

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