Not to keep beating the same dead horse, but boy are we starved for new movies right now. Obviously there are a whole bunch of more important things going on, but as someone who has historically used the theatrical experience to cope with the stresses of the world, having that get removed, and to have the entire concept of seeing movies again in the theater placed in a gray area, it’s been hard. The entire future of the American movie industry is up in the air, with most of the major studios seemingly making some worrying calls right now. Because it sure seems like they’ve decided that major blockbusters are going to be pushed into next year, and everything under a certain budget is just going straight to VOD, which is going to be pretty hard to reverse whenever we get back to something approaching normal. People are increasingly finding themselves unlikely to even visit a movie theater, and now that they’re getting new movies that were supposed to be released into theaters just dropped into their homes, I worry that that’s going to become even more of a barrier to major releases. And yet, as someone who is desperate to see new movies, I’m also jumping at the chance to see anything I can. During the first chunk of the year, when things seemed like they weren’t all going to fall apart, I remember seeing trailers for the film we’re discussing today, the Lovebirds, and not being overly blown away. It looked fine, but nothing that I was really going to go out of my way to check out. I figured that if it was released on a slow weekend where nothing else interesting came out I’d go check it out, otherwise it would get relegated to an end of the year clean-up when I try to cross things off my list. But, if it’s going to be released straight to Netflix I was going to run to it like an oasis in the desert. And, it at least managed to quench that thirst.
The film tells the story of Jibran and Leilani, a couple living in New Orleans who have been together for a few years, and seem to have reached the end of their relationship. They were quite in love at one point, but things have kind of fizzled out, and as they prepare to go to a dinner party with some friends they kind of realize that their relationship is over. However, while distracted by this heavy conversation Jibran ends up hitting a man on a bike with his car. The two begin panicking, until the man gets up and flees, only for a man claiming to be a cop to come to their car and commandeer it. They sit there stunned as the cop leads them on a high-speed chase, ending with him running the man on the bike over, repeatedly, and fleeing the scene. It’s at this point that they realize that they’re not accessories to murder, and make the decision to flee rather than get arrested, because their story seems to unbelievable. However, while checking to see if the guy on the bike was alive, they take his phone, and while trying to get their heads straight at a diner they find an upcoming event on the man’s phone. So, they decide to go to the bar for the meeting, hoping to get a clue as to who this person was, and who may have wanted him dead. Unfortunately, that just gets them into the path of a Congressman and his wife, who capture Jibran and Leilani, assuming that they’re working for the guy on the bike, who was apparently blackmailing them with some worrisome photos.
Jibran and Leillani manage to escape the Congressman and his wife, and in the process get hold of an address that seems to belong to the guy on the bike. So, they head to his apartment, only to find it full of frat-boys having a party. They try to interrogate one of them, who admits that they all worked with the bike guy in a blackmail scam, and he gives them some of the photos, which appear to be taken at a secret society. However, the man who killed the guy on the bike arrives, kills all the frat boys, and Jibran and Leilani are forced to flee again, this time heading back to the party that they were on their way to in order to get an IT guy they’re friends with to open bike guy’s phone. And, in the process they learn about a powerful secret society known as Sacrarium which is having a meeting that night. So, the two get dressed up in black-tie, and head to the party using bike guy’s credentials. But, right as an orgy is about to break out they’re found out as intruders, and are about to be attacked when the police show up. It turns out the cops have been looking into this organization for a while, and they’ve also been looking for Jibran and Leilani, who they were able to clear of charges through surveillance cameras almost immediately, meaning this entire chase was unnecessary. The pair are allowed to go free at that point, dealing with their crumbled relationship and the strange night they had, until the man who killed the bike guy shows up. It turns out that he’s a corrupt cop who has been working with Sacrarium, while also blackmailing them, and Jibran and Leilani are lose ends. He attempts to kill them, but they manage to overpower him, and alert the police to come help them. At which point they decide to give their relationship another try.
Listen, in an alternate universe where this pandemic didn’t happen, and I ended up seeing this movie in a theater in April, I probably wouldn’t have thought too much about it. It’s not a bad movie or anything, it’s just kind of fine. It gets a little too melodramatic at points with their relationship squabbles, has a few tired jokes, and just kind of feels like a re-tread of that Date Night movie from a few years back. But, it also has two terrific performances from Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae, it has its fair share of good jokes, and it actually manages to handle the whole twisty crime story pretty well. But, we live in a word where there’s been a distinct lack of new movies to check out, and kind of specifically a lack of new comedies. Which probably made me enjoy this movie a whole lot more than I normally would have. I already pay for Netflix, so why wouldn’t I check this out? And, I’m glad I did. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s studio comedy, and it succeeded in making me laugh a couple times, which is honestly all I need from a comedy movie during these dark times. I will probably never think about it again, but it made me happy for an hour and half, so if that’s something you’re looking for, check it out.
There’s been a recent trend in Hollywood comedies, a genre that seems to be rapidly dying before our eyes, that essentially tries to take a comedy movie, and smash it into a thriller. It’s not a new concept, but we’ve had quite a few solid examples of this formula in recent years, probably most well done by Game Night. And, it’s one that I actually find myself liking quite a bit. I have a deep love of characters from one genre seemingly being dropped into another. It’s probably because of my adoration for the Big Lebowski, but there are so many examples of what I usually like to call “the Accidental Detective,” a story where a normal person from our reality is dropped into an insane noirish crime/espeionage plot, and it almost always leads to hilarity. This movie manages to take two people in a fairly realistic relationship, full of self-doubt and misunderstandings of what a real human relationship is supposed to be versus the expectations that we have for them, and drops them into a story where they eventually uncover an Eyes Wide Shut style sex cult. And, it’s funny! These types of stories are hoot, and really show how ridiculous movies that play with these sort of story beats seriously are, because anyone in their right mind would be completely incompetent and doing their best not to flip out the entire time too.
The Lovebirds was written by Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall, directed by Michael Showalter, and released by Netflix, 2020.
Categories: Reel Talk