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The Lovebirds

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★★ ½

In The Lovebirds, director Michael Showalter (The Big Sick) tries to take a script by actors-turned-screenwriters Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall and transform it into a memorable comedy. And while it is entertaining, the rushed plot falls far short of being exceptional.

Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) are a couple who are just trying to go through their paces after four years of being together. Having realized that things don’t seem to be working, they decide it is over. Fate has other ideas, as Jibran accidentally hits a bicyclist with his vehicle. As they sit shocked after the accident, a man identifying himself as a policeman commandeers their car. He chases the bicyclist, ultimately running over him and then leaving the not-couple stunned as they stand over the body. Instead of going their separate ways, the two remain together on a quest to clear their names for the murder.

The concept is a fun premise with a lot of great opportunities for humor. Unfortunately, it relies too much on one-liners. Every chance to develop the story falls flat as soon as the scene changes. In this, it is more like a sketch comedy show with a common theme than a cohesive story. Still, there are a few good laughs, and the film does move along without dragging. If anything, it rushes a little to get to its next joke.

The successful moments in the film can be attributed precisely to two elements. The first is excellent direction by Showalter. As a writer himself, he has a keen sense of timing for both the action and the dialogue. Since they worked together well before on The Big Sick, he and Nanjiani have the potential of becoming a successful director/actor pairing if the script is right. The second element is the exceptional sense of timing by both Nanjiani and Rae. They work as a couple falling apart, and deliver their lines with a near-perfect understanding of the bickering and talking over one another that comes from couples who know just what to say to each other and when… for good or ill.

There is a good sense of reality to the cinematography, especially in chase scenes whereby the city of New Orleans is instantly recognizable. It was a wise choice to film primarily on location rather than using recreated sets. Still, some locations look a bit too pristine, and this might be distracting. Often, music connects the action and situation in comedies like this, but The Lovebirds falls short here, also. There just isn’t much, and even a scene using Katy Perry’s “Firework” seems forced.

All in all, The Lovebirds is enjoyable but forgettable. While the acting, directing, and concept are good, the script, much like a couple whose relationship might be falling apart, is a train wreck.

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Date: May 22, 2020
Author: Steven Yoder