Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) are lingering in her doorway as they say goodbye after a one night stand. Neither is ready to part so they go to breakfast, and then the park, and then they don’t even notice where they are because they’re too busy confessing mutual crushes and making ooey gooey eyes at each other and generally just agreeing that this is the best thing that’s ever happened to them. Rae and Nanjiani are charming enough that this fills you with joy rather than loathing.
Cut to: four years later. Leilani and Jibran are together, and having one of those fights that couples have, the little thing that turns into a bigger thing, angry words exchanged as they hurry each other out the door, late to a dinner party. The fight continues in the car, and things unravel to the point of breakup. We’re just starting to feel like this is going to be one mother of an awkward dinner party when WHAM, the cyclist that Jibrani just hit rolls up the hood of their car, smashes his skull into their windshield, and then flops back down to the pavement.
It’s funny how killing someone can really put a crimp in your plans. Now they’ll have to put dinner AND their breakup on hold to run from the cops – at least until they can clear their names. You might guess that this does not go well; The Lovebirds is in fact a comedy. The murder aspect is deadly serious but the escalating circumstances in which they find themselves are pretty funny.
“Things going increasingly badly for good people” is one of the most tired tropes in the comedy genre, and The Lovebirds is pretty much exactly what you expect. Happily, Nanjiani and Rae are talented enough and compatible enough that their chemistry saves this thing from mediocrity. It’s too bad the movie really leans on them to carry this thing, but it’s a relief that they can, and they do. The movie’s uneven, there are funny parts, draggy parts, parts that don’t work, and parts that really do. But on the whole I found it fun and enjoyable – light fare from talented actors who deserve to use this film as a vault to better roles and bigger spotlights. And since you may be cooped up with your own partner for the tenth weekend in a row, it’s not a bad idea to pour yourself some sangria and wonder how YOU’D react under similar circumstances.