The Lovebirds (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): I’ve seen it before – but it’s okay anyway

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“The Lovebirds” is so predictable and familiar to the bone that my mind kept experiencing moments of déjà vu when I watched it at last night. Right from the very beginning, I clearly discerned what I was going to get, and I was not so surprised much during the rest of the running time, but I frequently laughed as also appreciating the undeniable comic chemistry between its two talented lead performers.

The movie opens with the start of the romantic relationship between its two main characters. Although they initially met each other just for one night stand, Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leliani (Issa Rae) find themselves attracted more to each other when they come to have a breakfast together outside in the next morning, and it surely looks like the beginning of a long relationship to both of them.

However, after four years, Jibran and Leliani are not as happy as they were at that time. Although they are soon going to attend together an evening party held at their mutual friend’s house, they constantly bicker with each other even when they are going there by their car, and then there eventually comes an inevitable moment when they face the possible end of their relationship as wondering how they have become so bitter and estranged to each other.

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And then, as already shown in the trailer of the movie, something quite unexpected happens to Jibran and Leliani. Their car happens to hit a guy on his bicycle, and, to their bafflement, the guy runs away from the spot once he manages to stand up. Shortly after that, another guy appears, and Jibran and Leliani let this guy drive their car just because he claims to be a cop, but then, of course, that turns out to be a big mistake, and Jibran and Leliani soon find themselves on the run as the police subsequently search for them.

While it seems that there is no way out for them, Jibran and Leliani decide to take care of their messy situation for themselves, and that is the beginning of their bumpy and perilous journey around the city. Mainly thanks to a few things left by that unlucky bicycle guy, they get closer to what the hell is really going on, but, not so surprisingly, they also have to deal with a number of dangerous moments. At one point, they are forced to choose between hot, sizzling bacon oil and a hidden option of punishment which may be far worse than that, and all I can tell you is that this hilarious twisted scene will not disappoint you for a good reason.

I must point out that the movie automatically reminds me of many other similar comedy movies ranging from “Date Night” (2010) and “Game Night” (2018), but the screenplay by Aaron Abram and Brendan Gall, which is developed from the story written by them and their co-writer Martin Gero, keeps things rolling at least, and director Michael Showalter, who previously directed “The Big Sick” (2017), deftly balances the story and characters well between thriller and comedy. While the mood becomes tense and serious from time to time, the movie never loses its sense of fun and humor, and it is willing to be quite outrageous as shown from a sequence which is evidently influenced by, surprise, Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999).

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And it surely helps that the movie is constantly elevated by its two lead performers. Kumail Nanjiani, who was alternatively funny and touching in “The Big Sick”, and Issa Rae, who is mostly known for her HBO TV series “Insecure”, click well with each other, and it is really fun to watch their incessant verbal clashes throughout the film. Yes, they sometimes go a little too far in their neurotic comic interactions, but Nanjiani and Rae also bring some gravitas and intelligence to their characters, and we come to root for their characters even as rolling our eyes due to their characters’ numerous silly moments such as when they clumsily attempt to break into a certain place for another clue.

The major weakness of the film comes from its rather flat supporting characters, who are more or less than plot tools to be used and then discarded. While Paul Sparks is menacing as required as the main villain of the film, he is mostly limited by his colorless functional role, and I was also disappointed that the movie under-utilizes two nasty supporting characters played by Anna Camp and Kyle Bornheimer, who definitely have a ball during their standout scene but do not have many things to do besides that.

Although it is one or two steps below “Date Night” and “Game Night”, “The Lovebirds” engaged and amused me enough during its 87-minute running time at least, and I think that is enough for recommendation. As many of you know, the movie was initially supposed to have its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in this March and then be released in US by Paramount Pictures in the next month, but, unfortunately, both its world premiere and theatrical release in US were canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and that was how it happened to be released by Netflix instead a few days ago. Yes, you might say that there are indeed many better things to watch on Netflix and other streaming services, but I will not deny that I had a fair share of chuckles during my viewing, and now I have some expectation on whatever Nanjiani and Rae will show us next in the future.

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