Director Michael Showalter continues his hot streak with The Lovebirds, a very funny comedy with solid chemistry between the film’s charismatic leads.
This review of The Lovebirds (Netflix) is spoiler-free.
The Lovebirds (Netflix) has the distinction of being the first major movie pulled from the schedule (April 3rd) and sold off to a streaming service that’s not a studio. Netflix, per reports, bought the distribution rights for the Michael Showalter-directed comedy for a reported 20-million dollars on a production that cost around the same price tag (the film cost around 16 million to produce). This all could have added up to a bleak outlook for the film, but thankfully, for the price of subscription without premium on-demand prices, The Lovebirds is a very funny, entertaining comedy propelled by the excellent comedic timing and appeal of the film’s leads.
The lovebirds in question are Leilani and Jibran, played by Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, who have hit a rough patch after starting hot and heaving, reaching a plateau like most relationships, but then taking a tumble with constant arguing and bickering. Four years later, the heat is now gone, and the connection they built has reached their breaking point — right before taking out a bike messenger with their beige Volvo. They then find themselves caught up in a mystery and suspects in a murder that they must solve to clear their names by working together for the last time
The Lovebirds belongs to a group of films that trick the viewer into thinking most of the lines are ad-libbed by its talented cast. The script by Aaron Abrams (Davis in Code 8) and Brendan Gail (Blindspot) is a well-designed one with quick, clever dialogue delivered expertly by the leads. Nanjiani and Rae, have real sparks, but never lose their comic timing that doesn’t grow too contentious resulting in a loss of appeal, and never reach the “just stop bickering already” levels of Sam and Diane either. You can always tell how much they care for each other.
Both of the leads have been building reputations as consistent performers, even after last year’s flop Stuber and Little, and continue to build solid resumes. Rae is a real talent, with such range, and demonstrated that earlier this year in the drama The Photograph. She draws the biggest laughs of the film when interrogating a local frat boy — which is no small feat when paired with a comic standout like Nanjiani.
The film is always entertaining and habitually moving by pushing the story along at brisk pace even if many of the film’s scenes don’t quite work in terms of the plot. I do appreciate how the main plot flaw in stories like this has to do with doing one simple action that would make the film a short but is addressed by the end that is refreshing considering the beating law enforcement has taken the past decade.
Showalter cut his teeth by writing the script for the cult-hit Wet Hot American Summer and directing one of 2017s very best films, The Big Sick. The Lovebirds may never be as culturally significant as those films, but by being on Netflix during the first pandemic in nearly a century, it will surely be the number-one movie in America by the week’s end. That fact that it’s a good comedy with consistent laughs with appealing performances, may very well make it one of the biggest hits of 2020 and the most needed comedy in recent memory. It’s love at first fight.
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M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.