Life Partners (2014) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for language and some sexual content
Running Time: 95 min.
Cast: Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs, Adam Brody, Beth Dover, Abby Elliott, Gabourey Sidibe, Mark Feuerstein, Elizabeth Ho
Small role: Kate McKinnon
Director: Susanna Fogel
Screenplay: Susanna Fogel, Jodi Lefkowitz
Review published November 30, 2014
Though a slight and typical indie comedy release, Life Partners manages to overcome its genre formula through astute observations delivered by director and co-scripter Susanna Fogel, working with frequent collaborator and real-life BFF Jodi Lefkowitz ("Chasing Life"), on the difficulties of life adjustments made between best friends when one of the seemingly inseparable duo finds a steady significant other. This one puts a slightly different spin in that one of the two female friends is a lesbian, but it's not strictly an LGBT targeted film; the friendship dynamics are universally identifiable, regardless of what part of the spectrum you reside.
Leighton Meester (The Judge, "Gossip Girl") and Gillian Jacobs (Walk of Shame, The Box) star as Sasha and Paige, respectively, both in their late twenties, single, and able to fill each others time in between dates just watching reality TV and chatting it up with each other until 2am. Then one day, Paige hooks up with dermatologist Tim (Brody, Think Like a Man Too) and finds him suitable for more dates, leaving Sasha mostly having to find new ways to entertain herself while the new lovebirds get to spend quality time alone. When things begin to get serious in the love connection, Paige begins to view her future with a bit more clarity and maturity, causing some friction having to deal with the yet wayward outlook of free-spirit Sasha, who is a bit rudderless in her dead-end job and floundering career as a musician.
Though most of the film plays out with various rom-com best-friend tropes, Fogel and Lefkowitz keeps the angles incisive and fresh, and allow their individual characters their own room to breathe in ways that offer enough nuance to make it worthwhile. Although one of the two main characters is lesbian and her relationships and friends outside of Paige are as well, this film really isn't about that aspect, leaving the film much more broadly appealing to people who know what it's like to navigate friendships when time together has waned considerably. The best parts of the movie come from the interplay of the two leads, who have enough natural chemistry to buy as lifelong best friends, and some of the dialogue between characters who mostly exhibit passive-aggressive behavior toward one another to avoid out-and-out arguing feels right on the money.
If there are moments that might reduce its appeal, they involve some superfluous side characters, such as the irate neighbor (Feuerstein, In Your Eyes) who is huffy that Paige has refused to own up to her responsibility after she damages his SUV when carelessly backing out of her driveway. The film also features what must be the worst successful marriage proposal I've ever seen (involving a cancer scare of all things!). Though the story originated as a one-act play, there's definitely a sitcom aspect to the film that is more suited to television, and it may not be surprising to learn that's where Fogel's prior work consisted of.
Despite a number of spats among friends and lovers throughout, Life Partners manages to keep its light and pleasant tone throughout, and should hit the spot for people who enjoy indie flicks, rom-coms, and films that look at the dating scene for 20-somethings in this day and age from a variety of perspectives.
©2014 Vince Leo