In 2017, Kumail Nanjiani and director Michael Showalter teamed up for the utterly delightful romantic comedy “The Big Sick.” Who would’ve thought that the fact-based story of a cross-cultural romance in which the woman spent most of the movie in a coma would be so heartwarming and hilarious?
And now Nanjiani and Showalter have reteamed for “The Lovebirds,” a film that has pretty much absolutely nothing in common with “The Big Sick” … except for the star, the director and the fact that it, too, is wildly unexpected, laugh-out-loud funny and absolutely charming in the weirdest kind of way.
“It’s like a romantic comedy that gets run over by a car,” Nanjiani said.
As the film opens, Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Raye) meet, and there’s instant chemistry. We quickly flash forward a few years and the chemistry is still there, but it’s combustible — the two are fighting all the time about whether they could win “The Amazing Race,” what restaurant to go to, and, well, everything else.
That’s before they’re caught up in a gruesome murder, captured and tortured, witness a whole bunch of other killings, accidentally infiltrate a sex ring and run for their lives from the cops and the killer.
Driving to a friend’s house, Jibran accidentally hits a bicyclist. The biker survives, until a guy shows up, says he’s a cop, commandeers their car, chases the bicyclist down, hits him and runs over him multiple times. So Jibran and Leilani run, fearing they’ll be blamed. It’s funny. And tense. And shocking. And well worth the price of a month’s subscription to Netflix.
(“The Lovebirds,” which would’ve been rated R for language, sexual content and violence if it had been released in theaters, starts streaming Friday. It was filmed in New Orleans and was originally scheduled for a theatrical release — but after the pandemic hit and theaters closed, Paramount sold it to Netflix.)
It’s not a great film, but it is goofy fun in the most bizarre kind of way. A great way to take your mind off the real world for 87 minutes.
At the other end of the spectrum is another Netflix offering — “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich,” which starts streaming Wednesday. The four-part documentary series is tough to sit through. You’ll not only be horrified by what the mega-rich financier got away with, but by the fact that we live in a country where a rich, connected man can rape uncounted underage girls and young women and escape all but a slap on the wrist for decades.
“I wanted to expose the appalling abuse of wealth and power that defines the Epstein saga,” said director/executive producer Lisa Bryant. “The corrupt system that robbed these survivors of justice needs to be held accountable.”
She’s right, of course. But it isn’t easy to sit through one survivor after another telling the same story about how she was recruited and abused by Epstein. They keep their emotions in check, for the most part, but that makes their interviews all the more chilling.
Speaking of chilling, there’s considerable footage of Epstein himself testifying in recorded depositions,
After pleading guilty to sex crimes involving underage girls in 2008, he should’ve been put away for decades. Instead, he got a “sweetheart deal” that allowed him to spend just over a year sleeping in a posh jail cell, allowed out 12 hours a day and somehow allowed to continued to victimize girls and women.
His wealth — and, possibly, his powerful friends — kept him above the law. Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew are all mentioned in the documentary, but the focus is on the victims and on Epstein himself.
He finally made major international headlines when he was arrested and charged this past July, and those headlines got bigger when he was found dead in his cell the following month. The official verdict of suicide has not quieted speculation that Epstein was killed to keep him quiet.
“Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” will also take your mind off the current state of the world, but by showing you a reality that’s even worse.