VSMaking an unforgettable cinema isn’t easy, but neither is creating an unforgettable cinema: a wacky, likable comedy of the kind that crosses your mind, leaving behind the most easily patronizing film effect – a good feeling. The Lovebirds, by screenwriter Aaron Abrams and director Michael Showalter, is like that, a wacky romcom (rompcom?) It’s something you might watch on a plane. Right now, that’s not a reproach: an overlooked solace from happier times.
Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae play Jibran and Leilani, young professionals from New Orleans who bonded three years before the action started, moved in together shortly after and found their relationship starting to deteriorate.
Domestic intimacy has made each partner deeply indifferent to the other’s professional life. Jibran is a self-proclaimed documentary filmmaker who is hesitant to show his great work to anyone and will only reveal that it is about financial irregularities in the world of education, a subject that stuns Leilani with sheer boredom and irritation. As for Leilani, she works in an advertising agency and owes her career to an advertisement for a body wash, based on her own experience in college having experimental sex with a man who is unattractive because of her pleasant aroma of skin.
While driving to a dinner party one night, they have another argument and simultaneously realize their relationship is over. Jibran takes his eyes off the road to look sadly into the eyes of his now ex-partner who looks sadly into his. There is melancholy and even heartbreak in both – then they crash into a murderous criminal situation involving an occult secret society. Jibran and Leilani must flee for their lives and use their wits to solve a crime the cops might be about to blame them for. Could it be that this dreadful new scenario rekindles their love?
From there, the movie simply depends on the couple moving from one wacky situation to another, accompanied by an ironic, mocking argument about what they’re going to do: the 21st century equivalent of spunk. They argue over the meaning of “fuckboy”; they discuss the element of spontaneity necessary for an orgy; they wonder if it is pretentious to call an emergency staircase a “catwalk”; they argue over the lyrics, “Bad boys, bad boys, what are you going to do.”
There is a strange moment when they are imprisoned by the bad guys and threatened with some type of torture: being hit by a horse, which was apparently brought here for the specific purpose of committing barnyard-related violence. So it’s over, and surreality is never looking back at the horse.
Nanijani and Rae work well together, although the “chemistry” might have been overstated: there was more of a true romantic spark between Nanijani and her former co-star Zoe Kazan in her 2017 film The Big Sick, which also has was directed by Showalter, and which probably had more danger and more love. The Lovebirds is quite light – that’s how it can take off.