Susanna Fogel and co-writer Joni Lefkowitz tell the story of two best friends dealing with growing up and growing apart in the new film Life Partners. With their Felix/Oscar relationship going strong for years, Type-A “Paige” (Gillian Jacobs) and hipster lesbian “Sasha” (Leighton Meester) find comfort in each other when all of life’s stresses get in the way. Both single, both picky in the love department, and both into binging America’s Next Top Model, Paige and Sasha hold onto their familiar, young adult lifestyle before their 30th birthdays.
Everything changes when Paige meets a cute, graphic T-shirt wearing, movie-quoting doctor “Tim,” (Adam Brody) who interrupts the tight-knit friendship. As Paige veers into the traditional lane of life – good job, loving boyfriend, and promising future – Sasha’s unkempt world feels stagnant. With financial support from her parents and a dull receptionist job, Sasha spends her nights at gay bars and hooks up with drugged-out college girls instead of pursuing her dream of being a musician. Any drama she confides in Paige is relayed to Tim, putting their relationship to the test for the rest of the film. Between Paige’s awkward set-up attempts and Sasha’s passive-aggressive comments, they realize that their bond inevitably has to change.
The sweet message of the story is friendship and adapting to change. With relatable, realistic dialogue, Fogel and Lefkowitz show both sides of the story equally, using both girls as protagonists. The audience can relate to them – either by being the jealous friend with an unclear future or the friend who has it together and feels stifled. Either way, both characters are empathetic and supremely real. It shows how people grow, change, and let new people into their lives.
Despite the film mainly focusing Paige and Sasha’s friendship, a good portion is dedicated to Paige and Tim’s love story. Although Brody has tried to shed his Orange County alter-ego, Tim was every bit of adorable nerd Seth Cohen. His character is smart, kind, funny, and lovable, which, in turn, makes Paige’s personality a little easier to digest. Leighton Meester (Brody’s real-life wife) shines as grungy, tomboy Sasha, making this role a 180-degree turn from uptight, Manhattan elitist Blair Waldorf. Her performance is a welcome and amusing change of pace. It’s only a shame her real musical talents aren’t showcased. Gillian Jacobs, known for her comedy on Community, perfectly plays the straight man (no pun intended) to her free spirit counterpart.
With expectations of Tim turning into a serial killer or Sasha instantly becoming a famous pop star, it is pleasantly surprising to not have sharp twists or turns for the sake of being edgy. The mood is kept light, fun, and satirical with cameos from Saturday Night Live pros Kate McKinnon and Abby Elliot (along with the always-humorous Gabourey Sidibe as “Jen 1.0”). Overall, the film tells a timeless story of the evolution of friendship and the ability to adapt to all of life’s changes.
Review © Brigid K. Presecky (2/09/15)
Photo: Leighton Meester as lesbian “Sasha” and Gillian Jacobs as straight “Paige” enjoying the Gay Pride Parade, “trying not to look like a couple.”
Q: Does Life Partners pass the Bechdel Test?
Yes. Although the entire plot of the movie is about a man coming between two women, the film dives deeper. It’s not necessarily that Paige has a new boyfriend, but a new friend. There’s a conversation between the girls, where Paige lashes out at Sasha and says that they can’t stay up until 2 a.m. talking anymore, that they’re too old for that. Sasha counters that Paige still talks to someone at 2 a.m. … it’s just not her.