A relationship’s “spark” is an abstract concept that we love to talk about. Whether it’s the reason someone might want to break up or it’s why we aren’t going on that second Tinder date, the world seems to have collectively agreed that it’s the key to a good relationship. But what happens when the spark starts to fizzle? Or disappears altogether? Some couples go to marriage counseling while others might turn to less traditional methods of rekindling the relationship. In Netflix’s newest film, “The Lovebirds,” the answer to this question is murder, of course.
In “The Lovebirds,” Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani, “The Big Sick”) and Leilani (Issa Rae, “Little”) are recent exes who somehow find themselves looking like prime suspects for a murder — Jibran had blood on his coat (for reasons other than murder), and they both fled the scene of the crime. The two spend the majority of the film believing that their lives are over, despite their innocence. Though, logically, or if you watch any crime show, the two wouldn’t be suspects, but then there would be no movie. As the film progresses, the audience watches as Jibran and Leilani work to solve the murder while also unraveling what went wrong in their relationship.
As one of Netflix’s more original ideas, “The Lovebirds” is full of the hijinks expected of a buddy cop film — the two go through a tense interrogation, obviously have to change into disguises and have a strange interaction with some fraternity boys. All the while, Jibran and Leilani have to contend with their breakup and what that actually means. Given the unique circumstances, they’re forced to communicate their issues both with the relationship and with the way they each want to go about solving the murder. This dynamic provides an intriguing path of development for the characters and their relationship. The audience watches as the two resynchronize and, though they still argue, it’s obvious that the trauma of fleeing the cops is a fantastic way to discover a communication style.
The actual murder itself is presented as a convoluted conspiracy that really only serves to extend the story from a 29-minute sitcom episode to a feature length film. The murder victim, casually referred to as “Bicycle” (Nicholas X. Parsons, “The Domestics”) throughout the film, is wrapped up with some secret, cult-like society populated by none other than society’s elite. It’s far-fetched and the perfect experience to bring a couple back together. We all know the senators and rich billionaires of the world come together in weird ways and it’s fun to hypothesize that it probably happens with everyone in strange masks and odd sexual rituals.
And, despite the complicated nature of creating a plausible conspiracy, “The Lovebirds” still realizes the importance of remembering reality. Jibran and Leilani, after a few hours in their new life on the run, finally make a pit stop at the dinner party they were supposed to attend that night. Here, they’re forced into their “normal” lives. Lives with issues that, after considering their night as criminals, seem suddenly trivial. It’s a moment of understanding for both Leilani, Jibran and their relationship as a whole. What’s more entertaining, however, is the fact that the leading couple isn’t another pair of white people. Instead, we simply have two actors of color playing prominent roles that have little focus on the color of their skin. They’re simply two people that might be arrested for murder. And while this may seem like an unimportant detail, it shows Hollywood’s progressive steps towards more inclusive casting decisions.