Review: The Lovebirds Is A Long Night of Laughs, And That’s What We Need Now
With The Lovebirds, director Michael Showalter and actor Kumail Nanjiani reunite, with Issa Rae in tow, to continue their exploration of modern relationships. Showalter’s follow up project to his Oscar-nominated The Big Sick, The Lovebirds takes a sharp turn away from the Big Sick’s dramedy toward more absurdist and slapstick-y humor, and sees the director make his mark on the one-long-night genre like After Hours and Into The Night.
Najiani and Rae play Jibrani and Leilahni, a New Orleans couple whose relationship is on the ropes. The two get caught up in a murder mystery scandal, taking them from suburban horse stable kidnappings to frat house drug dens to masked bourgeoise sex parties. While the film’s plot is a little thin, the overall stakes are not so much the point as it is Nanjiani and Rae’s chemistry. The Lovebirds is best seen as a vehicle for the two stars to show their chops, as well as Showalter, whose strong comedic instincts can squeeze the laughs out of any scene.
Much of the supporting cast is made up of TV actors like Anna Camp and Twitter comedians like Cat Cohen, personalities who would get a serious boost from stealing a scene in a well-budgeted motion picture. Showalter, who himself has had quite a career, taking him from films to sketch TV to web series, similarly gives them as much room as they need to make an impression. At points, it feels like Showalter is being too sympathetic, with some of the jokes stretched a little thin. However, Nanjiani’s and Rae’s gifts for improvisation, honed on HBO shows Silicon Valley and Insecure respectively, hit the beats and take the scenes to finish line.
While Showalter’s tenderness with actors makes for a good chunk of the film's appeal, there are points where one wishes he’d show the camera and scenes as much love. The film’s high points involve the actors bouncing off each other’s energy. The opening argument scene and the aftermath of the kick-off hit-and-run are all hilarious and earn serious laughs. However, there are scenes like the Eyes Wide Shut (also available on Netflix, see ASAP if you have not) orgy that would’ve benefitted from a little more directorial flair and pizzaz. Some of the killing scenes, like an incident at a frat house and the horse stable extortion, could’ve been given a little more weight or could’ve been referenced later.
By the end of the film, those scenes exist only as vague memories to the point that they almost feel like they’re from another movie. Perhaps the chemistry between the performers did not translate to Showalter and the script, as he did not have a hand in writing it and, in fact, came late in the game. Regardless, The Lovebirds provides a solidly funny distraction from the outside world. While the adventure leaves a little to be desired, with Nanjiani, Rae, and Showalter as our guides, this feels like we’re running with our funniest friends.
The Lovebirds is now streaming on Netflix