New on Netflix: THE LOVEBIRDS

An escalating romantic-comedy caper in the vein of GAME NIGHT

The Big Sick, directed by Michael Showalter and based on the real life experiences of star Kumail Nanjiani and his wife and cowriter Emily V. Gordon, was a surprise stunner for many viewers who might have pressed play expecting a straightforward rom-com and getting a much more dramatic and heartbreaking tale than they might have expected from the comedic director and cast.

Regardless of expectations, the tearjerker was indeed a terrific film and a breakout starring hit for Nanjiani, who at that point was mainly known for supporting roles.

Showalter and Nanjiani have teamed up again for The Lovebirds, and for viewers who expected the duo to make a zippy and lighthearted comedy, this is probably more the sort of film you were anticipating.

Like Game Night and Date Night (among many examples), the film follows an average couple in an escalating comedy of errors as they unwittingly get pulled deeper into a web of crime and conspiracy.

For couple Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae), a once-passionate relationship has reached a place of boredom and constant bickering. Their breakup gets broken up though, interrupted by a man claiming to be a police officer and commandeering their vehicle to pursue a suspect — and then running him down and fleeing the scene, leaving the stunned pair looking like murderers.

Rather than call the police, they make the rash decision to flee as well, but circumstances conspire to implicate them and they’re set wild and crazy path to unravel the mystery and prove their innocence with a few clues at hand.

The Lovebirds works really well on two particular levels: the humor and heart. Laughs abound as Jibran and Leilani get pulled deeper into an absurd series of unlikely encounters, including an Eyes Wide Shut-style secret society orgy. But the film manages a bit more depth by mining their relationship as two flawed people with quirks and pet peeves, in this way reminding me of the smart writing on Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I think any couple that’s been together for awhile will find truth in the portrayal of two people who love each other but also bicker and get on each other’s nerves. Nanjiani is a master of self-deprecating and awkward dialogue, and it really serves him well here. Rae is stunning and commanding as the more level-headed and of the pair.

Side note, another point in the film’s favor is its presentation and normalization of mixed-race relationships. The concept of an Asian man and black woman dating is never questioned or even brought up, and completely incidental save for a couple of gags. This is a script and concept that could have, and in most cases would have, gone to a pair of white actors. These leads are not cast in service to a race-driven plot or to make things “about” race, but simply because they happen to be really great for the roles.

And that’s a good thing.

A/V Out.

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