REVIEW: “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (2020)

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In one way Aaron Sorkin is the perfect person to make a meaty courtroom drama about the notorious Chicago Seven. The accomplished wordsmith is more than capable of covering such a dense story and its numerous players. On the other hand Sorkin has never been shy about his firm political leanings, and this particular subject (especially in our current hyper-partisan climate) could offer temptations too tempting for him to pass up.

Sorkin’s new film “The Trial of the Chicago 7” proves to be a bit of both. It’s an enthralling, fast-moving and at times unexpectedly funny courtroom drama. At the same time you never doubt where Sorkin’s sympathies lie and history occasionally takes a backseat to the film’s obvious relevance-seeking predilections.

First slated as a Paramount Pictures big screen release before being sold to Netflix, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” follows a group (originally made up of eight and then eventually seven) of anti-Vietnam War and counterculture protesters who were arrested and charged with conspiracy and inciting riots (among other things) at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. They were considered leaders of various anti-establishment groups with diverse backgrounds and motivations – political activists, flower children, anarchists, and revolutionary socialists. Their reputations put them in the sites of the authorities and made them quick targets for the already defensive state and local governments.

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Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Sorkin tells the story completely from the points-of-view of the eight men charged and their supporters. Outside of a brief table-setting opening montage and a handful of flashbacks, the entire film is set in and around the courtroom. Sorkin puts a strong spotlight on the gross mishandling of the proceedings by a biased Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella) even throwing in some fictional demonizing as if history needed it. He also shows the sheer circus the trial became in large part due to Judge Hoffman’s unconstitutional antics, but equally due to the showmanship of the defendants, specifically from yippie leader Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen).

The story proper begins with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Richard Schultz, a young, idealistic federal prosecutor handpicked by the Attorney General John Mitchell (John Doman) to get a conviction in the trial against the activists. Schultz is one of the only people outside the protesters circle with the slightest bit of nuance. He’s essentially a government pawn but he’s also the only one who sees the potential risks of prosecuting this particular case. “We are giving them exactly what they want” he warns his boss, “a stage and an audience.”

Across from him is defense attorney William Kunstler (Mark Rylance), a radical lawyer and activist who knows the law and quickly begins to realize the deck is stacked against him. He has the toughest job of any – defending in a trial ripe with corruption while trying to keep his motley band of clients on the same page. The wild card is Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). He’s the eighth man with no real attachment to the other seven but connected by the government solely so the feds can target the Panthers. Stripped of his constitutional rights and dehumanized in the very courtroom that should stand for justice, Seale’s plight is the most tragic.

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Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Rounding out the film’s plump star-studded cast: Eddie Redmayne is shaky in places but mostly solid playing disaffected leftist cage-rattler Tom Hayden. John Carroll Lynch is a nice fit playing non-violent socialist activist and family guy David Dellinger. Michael Keaton gets a small but welcomed role playing former Attorney General Ramsey Clark. The one flatline performance comes from the usually solid Jeremy Strong. He seems out of sync playing hippie counterculture radical Jerry Rubin. He both underplays and overplays several scenes and never quite feels comfortable with his approach to his character. Still, the biggest head-turners are Cohen and Langella. Oscar nominations wouldn’t be undeserved.

Sorkin’s snappy pacing and signature rapid-fire dialogue zips us through the story, giving us a good sense of the legal turmoil while providing plenty of memorable character moments. As you would expect from a Sorkin film, most of the dialogue is whip-smart and flows with an energetic rhythm that keeps you honed in on every exchange. But surprisingly there are instances where it can come across as stilted and self-conscious. Characters will drop lines that feel custom written for a movie scene rather than natural to the story. And then there’s the ending, a rushed “notice me Oscar” finish that lays on the melodrama complete with swelling orchestration. Considering everything the film does well, the ending resembles something packaged from an awards-conscious studio.

Unfortunately in an effort to venerate his protagonists Sorkin ends up robbing his film of its true-story complexities. The Chicago Seven weren’t without blemishes – Rubin’s affection for Charles Manson, Hoffman’s cocaine dealing, Kunstler’s rogues gallery of clients. And while Sorkin tosses in a ten-second clip of Rubin and Hoffman teaching followers how to make Molotov cocktails, there’s really nothing morally complex about them. Sorkin writes a very white hat/black hat tale that leaves practically nothing for us to wrestle with. Still, he’s a good enough writer to energize the many characters and tell a mesmerizing story even if it’s only a subjective CliffsNotes version.

VERDICT – 3 STARS

3-stars

REVIEW: “Tenet” (2020)

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Christopher Nolan’s high-profile career has reached a point where every new movie of his is buzz-worthy. Every new project grabs headlines and energizes the box office. Each new film leave both critics and moviegoers eager to talk, write, scrutinize, hypothesize, and debate. And whether you like his style or not, his movies have become events especially for those of us who proudly call ourselves Nolan fans.

So naturally when I first heard of “Tenet” I was elated. When it was understandably delayed I was dejected. But now that I’ve finally seen it I’m ecstatic. Why? Because “Tenet” is an incredible experience and unlike anything you’ve seen before. “Tenet” is indelibly a Nolan picture through and through – smart, cerebral, highly original, insanely well-made, and full of big ideas. Like many of his other films it won’t be for everybody. In fact it may be his most inaccessible. But who can deny the amazing craftsmanship and cinematic wizardry Nolan (once again) showcases?

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Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers

“Tenet” isn’t just highly anticipated. It’s also considered to be an important film particularly in this current COVID-19 global landscape. After being closed for months hurting movie houses and theater chains around the world are depending on “Tenet” to revitalize big screen enthusiasm while giving much-needed boosts to their bottom lines. Meanwhile moviegoers have set sky-high expectations which his film (and no other film for that matter) could ever fully reach. In those regards “Tenet” may not be in the most enviable position. But I see Nolan, a consummate professional at his craft and an ever-growing student of cinema, fully embracing those lofty responsibilities.

Nolan’s latest mindbender sees him once again pushing blockbuster boundaries, many that he helped set. With a massive overall budget eclipsing $300 million and an even bigger vision, “Tenet” is the filmmaker’s biggest movie to date. It’s essentially a spy thriller that takes many of the genre’s elements and turns them on their heads. And it features yet another star-studded cast rich with fresh faces and some Nolan favorites. Leading them is John David Washington, a terrific young-ish actor with an exceptional pedigree (he’s the son of Denzel). Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Cane, Clémence Poésy, Dimple Kapadia and Aaron Taylor-Johnson round it out.

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Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Nolan has always enjoying playing around with time, but in “Tenet” he has a field day. It’s key to note this is not a time travel movie. Instead it deals with a concept called time inversion. It’s an integral part of Nolan’s story and essential to understanding the movie’s dense and shifting plot. In the future an Oppenheimer-esque scientist develops an algorithm that can cause objects to travel back in time. Overwhelmed by the catastrophic impact such a creation could have (namely the destruction of reality as we know it), the scientist splits the algorithm into nine pieces, hides them in different places in the past, and then commits suicide. This ‘inversion’ turns out to be the marrow of Nolan’s story. It’s the cause of the conflict, it’s what drives the antagonist, and it’s the only way to save the world.

It all begins with a stunning prologue set at a Ukrainian opera house. Oozing charisma, Washington plays a CIA agent known throughout the film only as the Protagonist. He and his small team of operatives arrive at the opera house to rescue an exposed government asset from a terrorist group during a symphony performance. During the extraction the Protagonist is saved from a terrorist’s bullet by a mysterious masked man in search of an artifact. The man gets away but the Protagonist and his team are captured and tortured by the baddies. But instead of giving away his colleagues, the Protagonist takes a cyanide capsule.

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Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers

He wakes up to even more shadowy figures who tell him the cyanide capsule was fake, his team is dead, and he has passed their group’s test. He is informed of something called Tenet and learns that the group’s scientists have discovered inverted bullets. Fearing the possible dangers, the group tasks the Protagonist with tracking down who is inverting ammunition and for what reason. The trail leads him to a Russian arms dealer named Sator (a cold and quietly menacing Branagh) who may be communicating with the future. The Protagonist tries to get close to Sator through his estranged wife Kat (Debicki) but that proves tougher than anticipated. So he and his recruit Neil (Pattinson), who always seems to know more than he’s letting on, use more “dramatic” methods to try and get what they need.

That doesn’t sound too confusing, right? Well you ain’t seen nothing yet. Thermodynamics, the Grandfather Paradox, Temporal Pincer Movements – just some of the subjects you’ll encounter along the way. But don’t worry, it’s not like sitting through a science lecture. Nolan takes a very specific approach to telling his story. He begins by bombarding you with information and terminology. Characters are rapidly added, sometimes only for a scene or two, and each have their own unique pieces to add to the puzzle. It can feel a bit overwhelming which seems to be where Nolan wants us. It makes it all the more impressive once those meticulously placed pieces begin to fit together.

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Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers

The scale of Nolan’s imagination isn’t restricted to just the storytelling. As you would expect “Tenet” is a technical marvel and a visual feast. Once again working with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, Nolan concocts some truly astonishing action sequences. Fist fights, car chases, a crazy stunt with a Boeing 747 – I hate to repeat myself, but these are moments unlike anything you’ve seen before. And two particular scenes involving what are called inversion “turnstiles” are some of the most creative sequences Nolan has ever conceived.

I can think of only one lone complaint I have about “Tenet”. Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson (filling in for Nolan regular Hans Zimmer) puts together an dazzling score. But the sheer volume during a few scenes made hearing the actors next to impossible. And this wasn’t just an issue isolated to my theater. Other than that Christopher Nolan has once again done what he does best – create an exhilarating cinematic experience aimed at wowing you visually and challenging you intellectually. It’s story is sure to be too dense for some, especially those wanting more easy-going blockbuster fare. But for everyone else buckle up, put your thinking cap on, and enjoy the ride. We don’t get movies like this very often. “Tenet” opens wide this weekend only in theaters.

VERDICT – 5 STARS

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5star

REVIEW: “The 24th” (2020)

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Named for the all-black Twenty-Fourth United States Infantry Regiment, Kevin Willmott’s “The 24th” tells the story of the Houston riot of 1917. On the night of August 23rd members of the 24th, driven by relentless Jim Crow era racism, police harassment, and a bit of misinformation, took arms and marched into Houston. By the end of the night eleven civilians, five policemen, and four soldiers including a Captain in the National Guard had been killed as a result of their mutiny.

Willmott co-writes the story with the film’s star Trai Byers. Their setting is a compelling one. In the summer of 1917 World War I was brewing in Europe while at home black communities were being violently targeted by angry white mobs in several US cities. It was during this tense and racially-charged time that the 24th Infantry Division were sent to guard the construction of Camp Logan, three miles outside of the city of Houston. The camp was to train white soldiers before they were deployed to France. The 24th went there with similar aspirations of serving their country but ran head-first into hate and persecution.

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Photo Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

Much of the movie’s uneven first half plays like a series of racially volatile encounters. Several of them are effective on their own and they do a good job conveying the ugliness of the setting. But there isn’t much connecting one scene to another. The biggest casualty in the earlier scenes is the character building. It takes a while before any of the 24th actually develop individually. When some of the players finally do, the story gets a much-needed boost.

Byars gets the meatiest role playing William Boston, a highly educated and idealistic young soldier hungry to join the war effort. He instantly clashes with his cynical first sergeant (Mykelti Williamson) who is quick to judge Boston’s buoyancy as a sign of weakness. At the same time he and other members of the 24th routinely encounter prejudice from the camp’s white soldiers. So Boston is caught in the middle, forced to prove himself to the bigoted white officers and to his jealous fellow black servicemen. And his friendship with his sympathetic white commanding officer (a fairly wooden Thomas Haden Church) doesn’t win him any fans.

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Photo Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

This is the film’s most compelling dynamic and it leads up to the inevitable mutiny and march into Houston. The lid blows off as the men of the 24th are pushed to the point where the line between right and wrong are blurred at best, completely rubbed out at its worst. It’s an ugly and violent final act – a complex melding of righteous indignation and cold-blooded murder. In some scenes Willmott attempts to dull the edge of the killings. But he also makes it uncomfortable to watch and he captures the pure, pained emotions of the soldiers. “Ain’t nobody innocent here soldier,” the sergeant rationalizes. “Not them, not us, nobody.” It’s a really difficult line to walk.

As the movie ended I was left with a feeling of sadness and conflict (although I’m not sure if that was the film’s intent). Willmott and Byers do a nice job boiling up the anger in not only the oppressed 24th but also any fair-minded viewer. And while they effectively show how unconscionable treatment can push people to unconscionable actions, the film’s judgements are pretty muted. Unfortunately the movie’s dependence on archetypes shortchanges several of its characters. And some story angles don’t get the attention they need. Take Boston’s romance with a local girl named Marie (Aja Naomi King). It’s genuinely sweet yet wedged in and underwritten. Those are the kinds of things that strip “The 24th” of certain personal connections it needed to truly stand out. Still, I’m glad I watched it and it’s a story that needs to be told. “The 24th” is now available on VOD.

VERDICT – 3 STARS

3-stars

REVIEW: “Tesla” (2020)

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All movie genres have their conventions and biopics are no different. So many biographies are bound by certain self-imposed responsibilities and constraints that often strip them of their own style and flavor. They follow familiar paths, hitting familiar beats, and ultimately reaching familiar results. But as quick as I say that, along comes Michael Almereyda’s “Tesla” to give the biopic ‘genre’ a swift kick in the pants.

Almereyda’s fresh, quirky, and utterly fascinating foray into the life of Nikola Tesla fully embraces the mystery behind the brilliant engineer, inventor, and futurist. With style aplenty and even more audacity, Almereyda kicks aside nearly every biopic convention, crafting a biography based as much on feeling and intimation as strict history. For example Almereyda doesn’t mind showing you a scene only to stop it and tell you it never actually happened. He doesn’t do it as a stunt, but as a way of exploring the enigmatic Tesla from unique points of view.

What better fit for the film’s peculiar rhythm than Ethan Hawke. The often underrated actor plays Tesla as a man out of time, someone so forward thinking that he struggles to connect with the present. A man essentially held captive by his own genius. “Sometimes it seems as though all I do is think.” Tesla solemnly explains. “For days and weeks on end. Like my brain is burning. Who can live with that?” Hawke doesn’t give us a starry-eyed dreamer. Instead his Tesla exists in a perpetual state of awkward intensity; so confident in his brilliant theories yet too melancholic and soft-spoken to convince anyone other than himself.

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Photo Courtesy of IFC Films

Not afraid to color outside the lines, Almereyda mixes facts with speculation to paint an abstract portrait of a man often overlooked in conversations over what became known as The Current War. Enter Anne Morgan (a really good Eve Hewson), daughter of financier and banking giant J.P. Morgan (played in the film by Donnie Keshawarz). Anne serves as our narrator and semi-historical tour guide through the life of Nikola Tesla. She also brings a shrewd female perspective to the testosterone-rich timeline. Sometimes Anne is sitting at a table with her MacBook sharing Google searches with the audience (yes, MacBook and Google). Other times it’s simple yet cutting voiceover where she shares how things might have played out. “If only Tesla had an enlightened hustler to steer him through the crass commercial world.”

That cynical yet thoughtful line of dialogue is actually a thinly veiled jab at Thomas Edison, played with a delectable balance of smarts and smarm by Kyle MacLachlan. Anne points out that you’ll only find the same four or so photos of Tesla on the web. Yet a quick Google search turns out countless images of Edison. And history bears it out. Edison’s renown has proven timeless. His success led to great wealth and notoriety. Children still learn of his work at an early age. Hotels, schools, bridges, a lake, a mountain, even an asteroid honor his name. Tesla died penniless and alone in a New York City hotel room.

Anne’s laptop, the internet references, even a later scene showing Edison with an iPhone all speak to technologies made possible by Tesla’s contributions. But Almereyda wisely keeps them brief and at a minimum, instead focusing on Tesla the man. From his early days working with Edison to their disagreement over direct current which Edison supported versus Tesla’s preferred alternating current. We watch him join Edison rival George Westinghouse (Jim Gaffigan), selling many of his patents and costing himself millions of dollars down the road. And of course we see Tesla’s move to Colorado to do his own radical experiments away from constant corporate conflicts.

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Photo Courtesy of IFC Films

Through it all Tesla is shown to be a man stubbornly loyal to his work. Anne tries to crack through his shell, even using her father’s fortune as a lure. Tesla shows signs of interest but is overwhelmed by Anne’s game of cat-and-mouse. Even a sultry global stage celebrity like Sarah Bernhardt (Rebecca Dayan) can only capture so much of his attention. In one sense Tesla is fascinated by Bernhardt and her aura of fame. But who has time for relationships when there is so much work to do?

Almereyda’s style choices also extend to the film’s look. Several scenes are shot in front of beautiful yet blatantly obvious painted backgrounds as if we were suddenly watching a small stage production. My favorite may be a scene of Tesla walking out in front of a backdrop of Niagara Falls, his hair and raincoat soaked. It’s unmistakably evident that they are not on location, but Almereyda is fine with that, happily drawing attention to its artifice. And it fits the film in its own strange synchronistic way.

It has been fun watching the early reactions to “Tesla”. Some have been taken aback by its weird beats and it’s unorthodox structure. Others have really went for its gutsy risk-taking and avant-garde flavor. Put me down in the latter category. “Tesla” finally gives the Serbian-born visionary the big screen treatment, offering him more than than a brief cameo or a thinly sketched supporting role. It happily embraces the Tesla mystique and tells his story with an ever so sly sense of humor (Just wait until you see a hysterical out-of-the-blue musical number. I’d be a villain if I spoiled it). Thankfully the film’s blending of the past, present, and future is more than a gimmick and Hawke’s stoic, internalized performance is the perfect anchor for this spunky and stylish bio.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4-stars

REVIEW: “The Truth” (2020)

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When it comes to the new French-Japanese family drama “The Truth”, they had me at Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, and Ethan Hawke. Toss in that it is written, directed and edited by acclaimed Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda and you have one of my most eagerly anticipated movies of the year. With such craft in front of and behind the camera, it’s hard not to be drawn to its potential.

“The Truth” marks Kore-eda’s first movie shot outside of his native Japan. It’s also his first film since winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes for his 2018 gem “Shoplifters”. This time he sets his story in the beautiful City of Lights and sports a star-studded cast. But Kore-eda never forsakes his arthouse roots or loses sight of the deep personal focus his films are often known for. You’ll also find him exploring many of his signature themes and fascinations while maintaining the warm, curious, and observant gaze you’ve come to expect from the distinguished filmmaker.

In a delightful bit of meta casting, 2-time César Award-winning French screen legend Catherine Deneuve plays a 2-time César Award-winning French screen legend named Fabienne Dangeville. The film opens with Fabienne giving an awkward interview to promote the upcoming release of her memoirs ironically titled “La Vérité” (or “The Truth”). Fabienne is instantly defined for us – a brash and unapologetic diva who at 70-years-old still feels her star status affords her special consideration. As you would expect Deneuve handles the character masterfully, infusing Fabienne with sincerity and spirit yet with a subtle air of self-imposed misery.

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Photo Courtesy of IFC Films

In less capable hands Fabienne could have easily become a caricature. But neither Kore-eda or Deneuve allow that to happen. Instead we are given a layered and complex character whose star may be fading but who still possesses the allure of celebrity. She can be haughty and unbearable making her ripe for disdain. This becomes especially true once it’s revealed she neglected her family for the sake of her career (and still brazenly defends doing so). But she’s far from one-dimensional and Deneuve’s performance reveals cracks of vulnerability.

Binoche is a sublime presence playing Fabienne’s long-suffering daughter Lumir. She’s a screenwriter living in New York with her second-tier actor husband Hank (Ethan Hawke) and their precocious daughter Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier). The three arrive in Paris for the launch of Fabienne’s book and immediately old mother-daughter tensions resurface. Things move from a slow simmer to slow boil after Lumir reads her mother’s book and finds it to be far from “The Truth”. When confronted Fabienne coldly responds “I’m an actress. I won’t tell the naked truth.”

From there Kore-eda patiently let’s his story play out. It may seem like the movie is idling along with nothing much happening. But it’s quickly evident that Kore-eda is carefully unpacking his characters through the organic flow of everyday life. By simply watching and listening we learn that everyone is in some way wrestling with the past and they all seem to have something to hide. It neatly fits with Kore-eda’s lingering interest in family dynamics specifically between parent and child.

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Photo Courtesy of IFC Films

Kore-eda is a master of subtlety and observation, but he also has a sly sense of humor. He builds his movie around the production of Fabienne’s new film, a sci-fi arthouse oddity titled “Memories of My Mother”. These amusing scenes get us out Fabienne’s posh but stuffy Parisian estate and onto a movie set where Kore-eda pokes fun at the quirks of filmmaking while relishing the joys of creativity. At the same time the characters are always front-and-center and their stories are steadily moving forward. There’s an glaring analogy between Fabienne’s new movie and her mother-daughter drama back home, but it’s handled with sure-handed smarts.

Kore-eda pulls off a lot with “The Truth” including making a film that is indelibly French through and through. It’s a beguiling chamber piece where every line drips humanity and his characters are the chief focus. It helps to have talents like Deneuve and Binoche whose natural fluency with dialogue is unmatched. Even Ethan Hawke’s Hank, who seems like a flighty tag-along at first, is fully fleshed out and given a surprising amount of depth.

“The Truth” is a treat for those of us who love sitting back and watching great performers act. Binoche is one of our best working talents and Hawke has for years now consistently made interesting choices. But Deneuve is the star (as she should be). She has worked steadily since her debut in 1957, but it has been years since she was given such a meaty role. Her self-referential confidence and complete command of her character shows she hasn’t missed a step. And Hirokazu Kore-eda is not only smart enough to utilize this caliber of on-screen talent, he also writes the kind of engaging material that enables them to shine.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

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REVIEW: “The Lovebirds” (2020)

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One of the earliest big screen casualties of the coronavirus theater closings was “The Lovebirds”. Paramount was in the middle of a pretty hefty promotional campaign when the coronavirus pandemic shut down movie houses and multiplexes around the globe. In a surprise move the film was sold to Netflix and now set to release on their streaming platform tomorrow.

The film is directed by Michael Showalter who earned critical acclaim for his 2017 comedy “The Big Sick”. He follows it up with “The Lovebirds”, a film that reunites him with Kumail Nanjiani and adds rising star Issa Rae. Their movie plays like a slightly edgier “Date Night” (remember that Steve Carell/Tina Fey flick) but without the memorable supporting players. Instead everything here rides on the backs of the two able leads who are forced to carry the load.

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Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Everything starts rosy for Jibran (Nanjiani), an introvert who makes documentaries, and Leilani (Rae), a social go-getter works at an ad agency. They really hit it off on their first date and the lovestruck couple seem destined to be together. Fast-forward four years and the two are still an item but hardly the starry-eyed romantics they once were. They find themselves arguing over the most inconsequential stuff (like whether or not they could win “The Amazing Race”). This couple who once looked like a match made in Heaven now are on the verge of calling it quits.

But something crazy happens on the drive to a dinner party. While arguing (again) Jibran hits a guy on a bike who darts out in front of their car. The man gets up and speeds off, but another man claiming to be cop takes the wheel and runs the cyclist over – literally…over and over. He then takes off leaving Jibran and Leilani to take the heat. Rather than wait for the police, the two panic and run away setting up a night of close calls and off-the-cuff detective work as they try to clear their name.

Nicely set within the not-so touristy parts of New Orleans, “The Lovebirds” bounces Jibran and Leilani around the city dropping them into one ludicrous scenario after another. They start out silly but undeniably amusing such as when they’re abducted and forced to play “Let’s Make a Deal” with a saucy Southern vixen (a really fun Anna Camp). But their predicaments get more ridiculous as we go, topping off with an absurd aristocratic sex cult sequence à la “Eyes Wide Shut”. It’s something that I’m sure looked better on paper than on screen.

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Photo Courtesy of Netflix

And then you have the mystery/conspiracy itself (if you can find enough meat on its bones to even call it that). It’s half-baked and barely held together. It completely fizzles out by the end while the antagonist is as generic and paper-thin as any you’ll ever see. I get that these things are secondary and are only there to offer up moments for Nanjiani and Rae to do their thing. But the stakes seem like an afterthought and if it’s going to be a fundamental part of your story it should at least be mildly convincing.

The movie finds its dual saviors in Nanjiani and Rae. It’s at its strongest when the two charismatic leads are bouncing barbs back-and-forth or bickering over frivolous nonsense in the face of various dangers. Nanjiani is solidly within his comfort zone while Rae continues to open eyes and turn heads. I wouldn’t say they are brimming with romantic chemistry, but as a comedy duo they pair up nicely doing a lot with little and ultimately keeping “The Lovebirds” afloat.

VERDICT – 3 STARS

3-stars