The Lovebirds, the second feature film in 2020 starring Insecure star Issa Rae, isn’t sure what it wants to be. Paramount Pictures is probably not sure either. When you pop up The Lovebirds, comedy, crime, and action thriller are among the genres that show up. To this degree, The Lovebirds is a combination of all of the above. The only thing that is missing is the kitchen sink.
My wife and I decided to take in the movie on Saturday night of Memorial Day Weekend. Rae, and all of her quirks, is a very popular actor these days, thanks in large part to her hit HBO series. After attempting to bring us a romantic film in The Photograph, Rae takes another stab at a leading role, playing Leilani, whose relationship with Jibran, played by Kumail Nanjiani, is all over the place.
Through Rae and Nanjiani, Leilani and Jibran are not sure what they want from each other. They yell, kick, scratch one another and then want us to believe they somehow are able to find a plausible way to connect their romantic link. In some parts of the film, it works pretty well. But for the most part, it is what it is.
There is a lot of over-the-top, unnecessary yelling and the chemistry between Rae and Nanjiani, for the most part, feels forced and does not quite sync in relationship to make us believe The Lovebirds a treat as the film wants it to be. To be fair, what The Lovebirds do is capture the complicated mess that relationships can be at times.
People in love don’t always like each other. People grow apart. Couples can get on each other’s last nerve, and then there is the pause of wondering if the relationship is salvageable. When we are first introduced to Leilani and Jibran, they are the essence of love.
After being together for a while, Leilani and Jibran are fighting through a relationship crisis when they find themselves on the run from the law after witnessing a horrific crime. One thing leads to another, and both Leilani and Jibran do their best to play Starsky & Hutch to flush out the intent of the crime that led them to be on the lamb.
There are some funny moments in the film, but they are too far and in between. Now granted when you have Rae and Nanjiani paired together, the expectation is that laughs will come by the barrel because of their respective comedic talents. Nanjiani has a dry humor that has kept him busy with work.
With 83 total movie credits under his belt, Nanjiani has used that dry humor to his advantage. But in The Lovebirds, what has worked for him in the past, seems misplaced here. Ditto for Rae, who is clearly on the come up as a rising star.
For some reason, no matter what Rae and Nanjiani do in The Lovebirds, it doesn’t click. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks vibed really well in the romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle. If old heads are hoping for a return to that genre of filmmaking, it doesn’t happen in The Lovebirds.
The one-liners are forgettable. The scenes that are supposed to be romantic are anything but that. And there is absolutely no sex appeal whatsoever popping off. There’s not enough sexual heat between Leilani and Jibran to turn on a gas lamp.
The one thing going for the film is that it at least entertains you, even if you’re on the verge of pulling your hair out (in my case the hair disappeared a decade ago) and screaming at your living room screen TV for a better plot. The Lovebirds would have been better served by sticking with one main description of what the film is about instead of the three or four that audiences are asked to digest.
Sometimes, being simple works better than to have much and have nothing to say at all.