The previously intended for theaters comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae hits Netflix this weekend.
The Lovebirds was originally a Paramount release slated for early April until, of course, like all other theater releases this spring, it was postponed and given alternate plans. Now, the comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and Issa Rae (Insecure) has a new home at Netflix and is available to watch now.
My biggest takeaway from watching the brisk and easily enjoyable 90-minute comedy is that I could watch Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani argue, improv and riff with each other for hours. The movie smartly opens as such. After quickly watching Leilani (Issa Rae) and Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) fall in love, we flash forward four years later to them as a bickering couple in the late stage of their relationship.
They’re arguing about, of all things, if they would be able to win on a season of The Amazing Race together. Leilani is convinced they would be able to do it, but Jibran thinks otherwise. It sparks an entire argument about the dynamic of their relationship and in a swift five minutes, the audience is told everything we need to know about how this couple has been operating together the past four years.
What we also quickly realize is that this is Leilani and Jibran’s relationship at its breaking point. On their way to a friend’s dinner party, they mutually, though still reluctantly, make the decision to break up. But just as they do, a biker suddenly crashes in front of their car, setting off a chain reaction that will change the course of both their lives.
It’s a clever setup from writers Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall as this couple embarks on their own real life and actually dangerous game of The Amazing Race as they track down a murderer to prove their own innocence.
Against their better judgment, Leilani and Jibran take matters into their own hands, evading the police and falling into a series of madcap scenarios as they try to exonerate themselves. From a run-in with a fedora-wearing Anna Camp to an ominous hangout full of frat boys all the way to an Eyes Wide Shut inspired underground sex party, the movie moves along at a clip and provides frequent laughs along the way.
The actual plot is just a thin thread, but what keeps things alive and moving is the undeniable chemistry between Issae Rae and Kumail Nanjiani. It’s apparent director Michael Showalter (The Big Sick) gave the actors room to improvise because their playful banter feels relaxed and free-flowing, and it works to the movie’s benefit.
Scenes of action will pause, such as when they’re just about to break into somewhere or escape out of somewhere else, and the two will get into spats with each other. It’s in these moments the movie sparks to life.
It’s also in these moments where I got to thinking about what it would feel like seeing this movie on opening weekend with a (hopefully) packed audience. As much as I’m glad The Lovebirds is released for everyone to watch at home, it did make me miss the experience of going to a movie theater. Imagining an audience all laughing together at the antics of two hilarious and hot actors made me unexpectedly nostalgic for something I never thought I would have to feel nostalgic about.
We still don’t know what the future of moviegoing will look like or when it will even be safe to go again, and it will be an ongoing experiment as theater chains figure out how to get audiences back. It’s more and more looking, however, that our first big return to the theater movie might end up being Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. Originally slated to release on July 17, the movie launched a new trailer this week that ends with the words “coming to theaters” flashing across the screen one by one.
Seeing those words felt like a promise, a promise that we will be back in theaters walking across those sticky aisles and enjoying overpriced concessions with friends. We will all be together again gasping at eye-popping action or laughing along with gut-busting comedy.
And this brings me back to The Lovebirds. A lot of times a Netflix release will feel just like that: a Netflix release. But The Lovebirds didn’t feel like that when I was watching it. It felt like a major studio comedy that deserved to be seen on a big screen with a theater full of people all laughing together.
And while feeling sad and nostalgic in between laughs probably wasn’t the intention of Michael Showalter’s new comedy, it works as such nonetheless. The Lovebirds works in both aspects, both as great entertainment at home and a reminder of why we go to the movies. I can’t wait to get back to the theater, but in the meantime, hit up your group chats and your Zoom hangout sessions, and virtually watch The Lovebirds together.