Movie Review: The Lovebirds8th June 2020
I hope I never quite find myself in a husk of a relationship, but then again, it’d be rather fitting since I’m more or less a husk of my former self these days. Perhaps the moment that this dawned on me was when I sat down to watch The Lovebirds, the latest romantic comedy to come from the giga-brains over at Netflix. As I sat with glazed eyes and a stony face, I couldn’t help but realise that I was watching a weak rendition of Manhattan Murder Mystery crossed with any conventional comedy from the past three years that makes so much as a hint of a joke about Tinder or the normalisations of a long-term relationship.
Directed by Michael Showalter and starring his The Big Sick counterpart, Kumail Nanjiani, The Lovebirds follows Leilana (Issa Rae) and Jibran (Nanjiani) as they find themselves spiralling through the criminal underworld after accidentally assisting a ruthless assassin. Whilst all of this meanders on in the background, the two realise that they’re not entirely in sync with each other, and thus decide to call off their relationship just before being framed in a case of foul play and murder. It’s all rather conventional stuff that you’ll have seen before if you’ve ever even so much as glanced at another movie.
Nanjiani and Rae have a good deal of humorous chemistry between them. They’re more or less the conventional couple, two individuals who squabble and bicker over the smallest of issues must air their dirty laundry whilst also surmising who the murderer is and why they’ve found themselves framed heinous crime. Moments where arguments spill over into skit-like comedy are more frequent than they have any right to be, but there are a few bits and pieces that do feel satisfactory. A strange nod to Eyes Wide Shut makes up a great deal of the running time, and that as a talking point alone is worth slogging through a somewhat disengaged first hour.
It’s hard to review a film that borders on being acceptable, especially one that knows exactly what it is and never aims for anything higher. Those within The Lovebirds are well aware that the routine has been tried and tested, but with two leading performances that do indeed have a spark between them, there are salvageable moments every now and then. Showalter’s direction makes it hard to focus in on these moments, comedy seems to dissipate under his hand throughout this one. It’s a genuine shame too, there are good ideas present throughout the film, but their execution is muddled and a tad embarrassing at times.
Predictability aside, The Lovebirds is an aimless comedy with more than a handful of moments that will keep you invested. It’s far from the perfect comedy, but by Netflix standards this is very much their Citizen Kane. For any movie released by the platform, I go in with the absolute lowest expectations, so for The Lovebirds to be mediocre at best, I’d say that’s a definite win not just for me, but for those who find themselves shackled to streaming platforms.