Perhaps more essential as background ambience at your next Zoom happy hour than a piece of filmmaking, director Michael Showalter’s new Netflix rom-com “The Lovebirds” gets underway with an amusing bait-and-switch: After basking for a few minutes in the smack of blossoming love between Leilani (Issa Rae) and Jibran (a very buff Kumail Nanjiani), we’re rudely met with a “4 years later” card and a relationship that has soured over time as awkward flirting morphs into an acidic exchange of insults. Putting disagreement about how they would fare on “The Amazing Race” aside (the social references here are aplenty), he thinks she’s shallow and she thinks his career is stilted. Romance…isn’t it grand?
These initial 10 or so minutes may be the movie’s most fulfilling. A step-down from his last feature directorial effort, “The Big Sick” (and totally devoid of that film’s dramatic pulse), “The Lovebirds” sees Showalter indulging a less restrained, more chaotic side. A trio of TV veterans collaborated on the screenplay, and the final product resembles a story that would have been constructed by the “idea ball”-plucking manatees seen on “South Park” once upon a decade. That is to say, you’re better off reveling in the non-sequitur energy vibrating from scene to scene rather than expecting “The Lovebirds” to build up to a memorable or ambitious whole. Continue reading →