“The Lovebirds” popped up on the new films section of Netflix this week. Going by its trailer, it definitely looked like an interesting rom-com. For one thing, with an inter-racial couple in the lead, it promised to be a fresh breath of air among the plethora of the new Netflix releases that have miserably bombed. But how many times have we been fooled by good trailers?
Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) are one of those live-in couples who find it difficult to come to terms with their differences with the passage of time. The differences in opinions and lifestyles get so stark, they are on the verge of a breakup. In fact, they are discussing a split when a freak incident on the road has them on the run from the law and what looks like a criminal racket.
Honestly, The Lovebirds has a pretty run-of-the-mill story. Every other rom-com features estranged (or almost estranged) couples running for their lives from baddies who never seem to get hold of them. Then, in the face of imminent danger, they realize they’re made for each other and all ends well. So, basically, it’s the presentation of plots and sub-plots within a clichéd story that makes these films differ from each other.
The Lovebirds, slated for theaters in late-April this year under the famous Paramount Pictures, was forced into a Netflix release because of the global Covid-19 lockdown. It does try to present the overused rom-com formulae differently. There are two “non-white” characters as main leads in a romantic comedy that has nothing to do with race. Also, the pairing of a “black and brown” couple is quite unprecedented. At the same time, the casting allows filmmakers to make a few jibes at the “racial profiling” problems the US has faced of late.
But even with the talented Issa Rae and the experienced Kumail Nanjiani in lead roles, The Lovebirds falls into the trap of old tropes. Directed by Michael Showalter, it follows the couple around the streets of New Orleans to give life to this story, but in vein.
The screenplay lacks the strength to keep the film amusing through its 1hr 27 mins length. A movie of that length should pass in a jiffy but not The Lovebirds. It struggles to maintain the steady rhythm of an entertaining comedy and when the story moves to suspenseful moments and thrilling revelations, the lead-up is botched. There’s no method whatsoever, which makes this film boring.
Despite his experience, Pakistani-American actor Kumail struggles to keep up the energy his character requires. The actor, who’s played dozens of roles in films and television productions, doesn’t look quite comfortable in the lead. Issa as Leilani is also not a memorable character. Yet the blame for the lackluster acting should also fall on the shoulders of the writing team.
The Lovebirds is a film about how a pair of perfectly normal people would react when they suddenly find themselves in complicated situations. Being involved in more than one murder, running away from police, hiding from criminals, and at the same time snooping around for clues to solve the mystery—everything in the film called for a face-paced, action-packed tempo. Instead, what the audience gets, in Lelani’s own words, is “The Amazing Race with dead people.”
Who should watch it?
It’s not the worst movie we’ve watched and still better than the highly anticipated Indian zombie series that recently to atrocious reviews. If you enjoy a bit of romance and a bit of comedy, you might just enjoy The Lovebirds in bits and pieces.