We are long past the golden-age of rom-coms, movies like How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days or Along Came Polly, the latter you should watch just for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance alone. They would feature actors that you know, who have to go through some mad-cap hijinks along the way, with the pair ending up together at the end of the film. There’s tons of comedy, some intimate romantic moments where relationships are examined and feelings are shared, and a feel good happily-ever-after conclusion.
Lately, these types of rom-coms aren’t in theatres anymore. The closest we come to that last year was Long Shot with Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron, but the movie didn’t gain much traction despite its certified freshness on Rotten Tomatoes. This is because Netflix has become the new home for rom-coms. They are breathing new life into the genre; diverse leads, versatile storytelling – now date nights aren’t a trip to the movies but a night in with a new Netflix release.
What’s interesting about this is that The Lovebirds was meant to be a theatrical release, but because of the pandemic, Netflix ended up buying the film from Paramount. Be it for a date night out or a date night inside, The Lovebirds is perfectly entertaining either way. The leads Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae, who play Jibran and Leilani, have romantic and comedic chemistry together, and the film just lets them do the work. There are moments where I just laughed out loud because of how much they cracked me up. I especially like how the film is structured, where the pair’s argument about whether they would win The Amazing Race and if people schedule their orgies become relevant later on, and these callbacks add to the humour of the film.
As we saw in the trailer, the pair become involved in a murder; a case of the wrong place at the wrong time. They panic when witnesses think they did it, after all, they were in a car that rolled over a guy multiple times. So what are they to do? Use the guy’s phone, track down the clues, and solve it to absolve themselves. These characters don’t become criminally savvy, and behave the way two normal people would when suddenly thrown into a world of crime, which adds to the laughs.
Besides the comedy, there is also a slight commentary about social media and relationships. Leilani thinks that her relationship with Jibran isn’t panning out the way most relationships do, given that they fight and bicker with each other and don’t seem to have freaky, spontaneous sex. But as we all know, social media projects an image that may not be real life. So as the two navigate this mystery together, they get more opportunities to see that their coupledom works, and that their relationship is worth holding on to.
My only gripe is that the minor characters in The Lovebirds aren’t great. The villain is boring – he delivered way too much exposition, instead of allowing the audience to just piece it all together (and it was fairly obvious by then). Anna Camp has a brief scene in this, and it was enjoyable, but yeah, she was probably in the movie for like ten minutes. Rom-coms need memorable minor characters, like Keanu Reeves playing himself in Always Be My Maybe or the Lucy Liu/Taye Diggs dynamic in Set It Up, but The Lovebirds only had Nanjiani and Rae to carry it.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the two are talented and this would be a great jumping off point to bigger and better things. The film just doesn’t have enough to be a rom-com I would want to dive into every few years for nostalgia purposes, but hey, does it need to be? Maybe entertaining is good enough.
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The Lovebirds makes for an entertaining watch, mainly because of leads Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae, who show us how effortlessly funny they are.
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