‘The Lovebirds’ Review: Kumail Nanjiana and Issa Rae power derivative rom-com from the director of ‘The Big Sick’

This review was first published on KENS5.com, and can be viewed here. 

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 →

Review: In ‘Juliet, Naked,’ a delightful (if unfinished) updating of the love triangle trope

We all have idols. Human monuments – whether in the public’s consciousness or merely our own individual headspaces – who we venerate in blogs or by internal means.

But in those obsessions, do we ever stop to monitor ourselves, and consider how we believe they influence the world don’t mirror how they perceive themselves? Have we ever thought about what we’d say if we ever met them, or worse, if they alleged our perceptions are off-target?

That’s one of a few simultaneously interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts explored in Jesse Peretz’s “Juliet, Naked.” It’s also arguably its most interesting, interweaving adoration and comically exaggerated (or perhaps not?) reverence, though the one Peretz spends the least amount of time deconstructing. Continue reading →