You probably have a fear of needing to wake up tomorrow morning, as it may feel like anticipating when your flip clock will blare, “Babe, I got you babe!” at 6:00 am. That monotonous pace your life could be at right now is much like this unfortunate 2020 release that among countless others was affected by COVID-19. Except instead of waiting for some time after late Summer to reschedule, The Lovebirds went the Trolls World Tour route of releasing straight to streaming, or in this case, straight to Netflix. Well, I can’t say it’s worth being able to watch for free on Netflix, but at least it’s better than waiting months later to pay admission price.
The protagonists of focus here, played by Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae, are first seen four years prior to the major events, back when they meet for the first time before all their constant bickering. I don’t know whether the director or the editor deserves more blame, but it hurts to keep up with all these two losers shout at each other. Kumail and Issa work a little too well together, wasting our time on their rambling conversations with little breaths between verbal exchanges.
While out in their car one day, suddenly BOOM! A bicyclist dude flies right into the windshield, rides away, then a second dude hops behind their wheel to chase after the bicyclist, runs after him a few times until dead, and flees, leaving the couple to be wrongly accused of the murder. From there, the night grows crazier with bacon grease, a horse’s rump, a unicorn hoodie, those creepy masks worn during the Black Death, a cell phone inside a milkshake, photographs inside goldenrod envelopes, a group orgy, all situations designed to burn into your memory. Director Michael Showalter (The Big Sick) certainly does draw in natural focus on the unpredictable craziness that begs you to wonder, “What if I got interrogated? What if I had to constantly swap my wardrobe?”
Those intriguing ideas are there for a wicked fun time, except the tone changes with each scenario. A few slapstick jokes happen as if straight out of a film set in the countryside, a few scenes appear straight out of a serious crime thriller, others seem to take inspiration from the Nazgul’s hunt on the Hobbits from The Lord of the Rings, and another feels like it came right out of 1970s arthouse cinema. Yeah, that one scene that feels almost Kubrickian appears straight from Hell, even freaking you out once the theater starts chanting in unison. It seems to be just what’s needed to cherry-top the script’s representation of our scary planet, yet these twists and turns do little to build any actual tension.
Since the other characters outside the two leads don’t have enough screentime, other small plot devices leave minimal impact, such as the boyfriend’s documentary on the corrupted educational system. It could honestly drive you crazy how many missed opportunities there are here; we could have had a legit return to beautifully bizarre art house films in mainstream cinema, had the makers behind this film decided to just go all out. The symbolism is there of some horse imagery segueing into unicorn imagery, but it’s not enough.
That leads into another big issue: the technical elements. None of them are utilized intentionally to make this look like anything other than yet another screwball comedy, other than Michael Andrews’ (Bridesmaids, Donnie Darko) intense techno score. The nauseous bicyclist murder chase proves why the pace is too brisk for its own good as it thinks faster equals better. That’s wrong though, the fact of the matter is that faster means rushed, and rushed means lost potential! Despite the boring look though, the visual effects shots are completely seamless in execution, no matter how much the laws of physics are broken. The job of practical and digital effects artists is to not be noticed, which in this case leaves room for you to notice more how uninspired the editing and cinematography are.
However you have to give Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae credit where it’s due, as those relatable romance moments come out; while not ideal, it’s nice when the two sing along to Katy Perry’s “Firework” during a tense peak in the narrative. Especially since the whole idea of the film is that the couple is on the brink of breakup, seeing them remember back to happier times with this song is quite sweet. Plus, at the very end, a callback to something said on date number one comes back in a real delightful way. Seeing them together reminded me of my own past of being continually rejected by hopeful significant others, and the irony of them playing roles centered around wanting to leave their significant other creates humor out of a harsh reality. Kumail in particular still proves his skill in comic timing; I’m sure he was of great help to the rest of the cast.
Don’t get the wrong idea though: those little solid points aren’t enough to make a worthwhile watch, since like I emphasized before, none of them are exploited to their full potential. It’s just playing it safe with lots of unsafe scenarios. Instead of being something that deserves a re-watch or even a first-time watch, this new film reflects the same way I viewed two different (rather overrated) rom-coms I saw recently: Splash and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. One was a rather illogical movie about a mermaid who learned to speak fluent English after six hours of watching TV, the other was extremely racist and glorified being rich over anything else. The Lovebirds features a bit of both: the incoherent logic that’s written to make everything benefit the couple, and insensitivity to human nature that looks down on itself. When that is combined with its incoherent laziness in making a true work out of many scattered ideas, you got another title you can scroll past on your Netflix queue.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
July, Beandrea. “'The Lovebirds': Film Review.” Digital image. The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media, LLC., 20 May 2020. Web. <https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/lovebirds-review-1295106>.
The Lovebirds. Netflix. Web. <https://www.netflix.com/title/81248748>.