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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Lovebirds stars Issa Rae (Insecure, The Photograph) and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Silicon Valley) as a couple who unwittingly become involved in a hit-and-run murder just moments after they break up. They "meet cute" the morning after they had casual sex, and there are a couple of other discussions about sex. More significant, though, is that they witness an orgy ritual (à la Eyes Wide Shut), which is played for laughs. Glimpses of clearly naked bodies and sexual motions are shown, but no sensitive body parts are actually seen. Violence is also prevalent, including several murders -- one of which involves someone gunning down a room full of people. A lot of the violence is slapstick in tone. There are references to drinking, and language is mostly limited to "f--k," but that word is used quite often. The movie has a strong theme of teamwork, and the main characters and their friends offer positive examples of underrepresented groups.
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Is it any good?
Cinema loves its bickering couples, and Rae and Nanjiani have the chemistry to rank among the greats (Hepburn and Tracy, Scarlett and Rhett, Leia and Han). That may seem like a bold statement, but it's true. (Nanjiani's work in The Big Sick was early indication that he could crush it as a romcom-leading everyman -- terrain that was well covered by Tom Hanks in his earlier days.) What's obvious is that, despite their dysfunction, the two main characters have a way of communicating that shows how perfect they are for each other. That's a different dynamic than we've seen in the past. Think of Lucy and Ricky: He laid down the law, and she snuck around his orders. And then there's the cliché of a strong, opinionated man who's held in check by his wife because she clearly "wears the pants." No one holds "the power" in The Lovebirds' relationship: Both Leilani and Jibran feel empowered to speak their mind and communicate, even after they're no longer a couple.
The idea of a couple being implicated in a crime moments after they break up is funny, and you will definitely laugh. Still, how these two fall into their misfortune is a little ridiculous, even for a comedy. But it plays into the modern mistrust of the police: They believe that, as a Middle Eastern man and a Black woman, they'll be thrown in jail even though they didn't commit the crime. When they get a hard stare from a cop in a police cruiser, they're sure the jig is up -- until he keeps driving ("Whew! He's just a regular racist"). The film uses race as a comical acknowledgment of our current world, while growing beyond race to depict the two main characters and their friends positively. The result of Leilani and Jibran's racial profiling paranoia is something that's never been seen before: a mainstream mystery-solving movie couple who isn't White. In a Hollywood that for the last century has almost always given audiences crime-solving romantic partners who look like William Powell and Myrna Loy (The Thin Man), Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers ('80s TV series Hart to Hart), or even Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston (Murder Mystery), let's hope that "lovebirds" Leilani and Jibran can continue to nest together for years to come.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why people of color don't always trust the police. How does that institutional mistrust worsen Leilani and Jibran's predicament in The Lovebirds?
If you strip the film of the "F" word, there's almost no cursing. Does swearing make a film better or feel more authentic? If there was no strong language, do you think you'd even notice?
Compare Leilani and Jibran's communication skills at the beginning of the film and at the end. Why is good communication essential in a successful relationship?
How does The Lovebirds compare to other crime comedies? How often do you see people of color in this type of role? Why is representation important?
- On DVD or streaming: May 22, 2020
- Cast: Issa Rae, Kumail Nanjiani, Kyle Bornheimer
- Director: Michael Showalter
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, language throughout and some violence
- Last updated: March 19, 2021
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