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The Lovebirds – Movie Review

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The Lovebirds – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Netflix

With The Big Sick and Hello, My Name is Doris, Michael Showalter proved himself as a director capable of making heartfelt comedies. However, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be allowed to direct silly comedy farces from time to time. The Lovebirds turns into a funny romp that makes great use of its two leads and also knows not to overstay its welcome. Paramount Pictures was originally going to give The Lovebirds a theatrical release, but the coronavirus pandemic led them to sell the movie to Netflix. The popular streaming service is a fitting place for the movie, though, which makes for a more than worthwhile home viewing.

The screenplay for The Lovebirds is credited to Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall, who know how to structure the story to get the lead protagonists Jibran and Leilani from one strange encounter to the next. The film also properly sets up their strained relationship, which has an effect on their predicament. Showalter allows Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae to ad-lib large chunks of their dialogue, leading to some spirited and hilarious discussions. Relying so much on improvisation in comedies doesn’t always lead to stellar results, but The Lovebirds manages to avoid those trappings. Part of the reason is how the brisk the movie is. Clocking in at only 86 minutes, the movie doesn’t waste too much time in one location and that’s appreciated.

Nanjiani and Rae deliver some great one-liners, as Jibran and Leilani try to make sense of what’s happening to them. Even with their apparent flaws, these two still end up as likeable leads and we want them to get out of this ordeal. The funniest moments come from their complete lack of experience in these bonkers situations and how they navigate them. Showalter puts the audience on the journey with them and the film avoids too much predictability in how things pan out. One might expect cameos from this sort of comedy, but Showalter largely avoids appearances from other well-known comic actors. The one exception is Anna Camp, who participates in a humourous take on torture scenes.

Showalter also deserves credit for how he frames the movie. At first glance, The Lovebirds doesn’t appear all that different from your conventional comedy, but he does some neat tricks. He makes good use out of night scenes and there are even a few close-ups that add a surprising poignancy. One scene set in a frat boy apartment especially knows how to use spaces to add to the comedy. It feels like comedy directors are undervalued and they don’t deserve to be. Michael Showalter has notably proven himself to be one of the best comedy directors working today.

The Lovebirds more than provides the necessary laughs as Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae make their way through New Orleans. The movie plays on clichés in clever ways, including a fun spin on Eyes Wide Shut at one point. The film ultimately belongs to the two leads and their hilarious chemistry. That they feel like actual, fully formed characters adds a lot to hoping they get out of the mess they find themselves in. Nothing is lost from The Lovebirds debuting straight to streaming, although this would have certainly played well with a theatre audience.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison