"The Lovebirds" Movie Review
Early on in The Lovebirds, the latest throw-away comedy from Netflix, on-the-rocks couple Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) sit in a diner and discuss how weird it is that milkshakes are the only food served with its own leftovers (that stainless steel cup with the extra last bit). A decent point, sure, and something worth maybe 10 seconds of thought… but also an apt metaphor for the movie itself. The Lovebirds will come and go from your life like a fleeting (and, frankly, a little bit odd) idea considered for a moment and never to be pondered again.
After a cute prologue that shows the happy new couple getting to know each other the morning after their first date, we flash ahead four years to the well-worn life of domestic un-bliss. He’s a closed-off filmmaker who’s been working on his documentary for years. She is a marketing exec who’s frustrated that her guy is stuck in a rut. Over the course of five minutes, they argue about everything from The Amazing Race to freaky sex to Instagram as they get dressed for a friend’s dinner party. On the way there, the discord continues, leading them to both agree it’s better if they just called it quits. And that’s when Jibran accidentally bangs into a bicyclist.
The morbid escapades continue when a plain-clothes cop commandeers their car to chase the injured-but-escaping cyclist, subsequently catches up with him, then hits him (again), runs him over repeatedly (back and forth and back and forth and…), and then runs off. Jibran and Leilani are left wondering what the heck just happened and naturally get mistaken as the perpetrators by a hipster couple before running away themselves.
Taking more than a few cues from the playbooks of both 2018’s Game Night and 2010’s Date Night (hapless couple has every crazy thing in the world happen to them over the course of a night), The Lovebirds feels more than a little stale in parts and completely nonsensical in others, as Jibran and Leilani work to clear their names and solve one heck of a whodunnit. When a bizarre sex cult plays a major role (or does it?) and earns barely a mention from anyone after the fact, you have no choice but to just sit back and scratch your head. And what about Anna Camp’s pop-in as a Southern girl/Senator’s wife who threatens Jibran and Leilani with a pan of bacon grease (for reasons we’re still not sure of)? And that’s before we even begin any discussion about the gaping plot holes that permeate this thing like Swiss cheese.
Fortunately, Rae and Nanjiani’s chemistry saves the film from floundering completely. Going back and forth with each other like pros in a tennis match, they keep The Lovebirds moving along, despite the best efforts of director Michael Showalter (Nanjiani’s The Big Sick) to keep it from ever getting out of second gear. If pacing were a virtue, Showalter would be in serious need of a confessional.
Every now and then, screenwriters Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall do show a flash of brilliance, but a batch of solid one-liners and isolated, semi-clever scenes never coheres into a complete product, making The Lovebirds about as satisfying as, well, a half-melted milkshake.