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“The Lovebirds” Film Review

“The Lovebirds” hit Netflix on May 22, instead of having the planned SXSW film festival premiere and theatrical rollout due to COVID-19. Like so much content debuting during quarantine days, it was a welcome release to press play amid the backdrop of doom and gloom. 

Kumail Nanjiani (“The Big Sick,” “Stuber”) and Issa Rae (“Insecure,” “The Photograph”) star as Jibran and Leilani — a couple who unintentionally get embroiled in a murder mystery while experiencing a defining moment in their relationship. And shenanigans ensue from there. 

Nanjiani is becoming quite the lead these days, and seeing him next to Rae was a refreshing thing to see onscreen. It’s a bit sad that in 2020 seeing an interracial couple that isn’t one-half white is considered groundbreaking. “The Lovebirds” is one step in the right direction of having a more diverse representation in Hollywood. With that being said, the film isn’t breaking any other new ground in the action/rom-com/mystery genre. 

The leading power of Nanjiani and Rae would seem like it would be a hit. They’re both quirky and fun, and putting them together should make sparks, right? Not the case in “The Lovebirds.” The greatest strength of the Michael Showalter-directed film came in the moments of realness of relationship breakdowns and communication that felt authentic. But that made for contrasting tones. I was left wanting more of a rom-drama than the silliness they find themselves in throughout the film. Nanjiani shines in these moments of rawness with Rae, and I wish there had been more of those high notes.

While the relationship drama was at its peak, the comedy part was ehh. And that’s a problem in a film billed as a comedy. It just felt off between Nanjiani and Rae. They didn’t have that spark that needs to be there. They were playing the same song, and in comedy you need to hit different notes to make that magic melody happen. At times when they were trying to play off of each other, it came off more as incoherent mumbo jumbo that they were hoping would land funny. 

(L-R) Issa Rae as Leilani and Kumail Nanjiana as Jibran | Photo credit: Netflix

The film isn’t without its laughs. This isn’t a bad, unfunny film. But given the star power of both its leads, my expectations were set a little higher. 

The supporting actors come and go and are barely noticed or missed. Anna Camp, Paul Sparks (“House of Cards”) and Andrene Ward-Hammond were underutilized, and that is unfortunate. The subplot of the murder mystery is subpar, and the circumstances Jibran and Leilani find themselves in never add any tension or suspense that a murder mystery plot should.

The most surprising and disappointing thing I found while watching the film was how lackluster it all felt. The backdrop of New Orleans was never felt, only mentioned. Unlike other films that are set in New York or Los Angeles that become a character in the film, I never saw anything that made me feel like we were in New Orleans. That seems like a missed opportunity to showcase a city in this sort of film. But alas.  

If you’re looking for a comedy to make you laugh out loud, this isn’t it. If you’re just looking for something light and fun — and you’re a fan of Nanjiani and Rae — press play on “The Lovebirds.”

“The Lovebirds” is now streaming on Netflix.

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Featured image credit: Netflix

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