Dec 05

“Life Partners”: Close Friendship Between Women Is Tested

Diane Anderson Minshall, The Advocate, explains that real-life friends Susanna Fogel and Joni Lefkowitz are the inspiration for the new film Life Partners, a story about late-twenty-somethings. They wrote it, in fact.

The plot: Straight environmental lawyer Paige (Gillian Jacobs) is besties with lesbian receptionist/musician Sasha (Leighton Meester). Adam Brody plays dermatologist Tim, who becomes Paige’s boyfriend, a development that tests the women’s friendship.

The trailer’s below:

Sexual orientation labels and issues apparently aren’t a big deal in this movie. “In the same way that a lack of a prejudice can be invisible until noted, this subtext is played out so subtly on-screen that one could easily not realize it’s there,” states Minshall.

Abhimanyu Das, Slant, further explains: “In reality, the romantic elements are secondary to what is essentially an astute and cleverly written dissection of a co-dependent friendship being gradually eroded by the incremental ravages of age, rivalry, and rapidly diverging personal arcs.”

Though the filmmakers examine Paige and Tim’s travails, both minor (mutual cluelessness about one another’s entertainment-watching rituals) and major (Paige’s mother-enabled inability to admit she’s wrong), most of the rest of the pic explores Sasha’s adventures with the job she hates and the women she loves. In fact, virtually all of the secondary characters in the film, except for Paige’s mother (Julie White), are gay friends of Sasha with whom both Paige and Sasha initially hang out, as creative team Fogel and Lefkowitz invent a whole gallery of gay gals to counteract Paige and Tim’s super-straight suburban couplehood.

However, not all critics are particularly fond of how the story develops—as well as some of those supporting characters. Gabe Toro (Indiewire):

This is another independent film where obstacles come equipped with traffic signs so you note them far ahead, minutes before arrival. Supporting characters frequently fall into sketch caricature: ‘SNL vets Kate McKinnon and Abby Elliot stop by as two of Sasha’s preening, oblivious conquests, neither given a chance to create a real person out of a collection of tics…

An exception is a fellow barfly played by Gabourey Sidibe, the only real element in a film packed to the brim with TV-style quipping and forced slapstick.

Paige and Sasha

Abhimanyu Das, Slant: “The film’s frankness about the things friends sometimes do to one another (or fail to do for one another), and its steadfast stance on where the line should be drawn in terms of self-sacrifice within a friendship, set it apart from similarly themed contemporaries.”

Scott Tobias, The Dissolve: “It’s especially difficult in this case because they’ve gotten so far into their 20s without anything changing, and because to Sasha, what Paige is doing looks like a sellout to hetero conventionality. They finally go toe-to-toe on these issues—and on Paige’s controlling nature—but Life Partners more often wanders into side business…”

Selected Reviews of Life Partners

Claudia Puig, USA Today: “The charming story about millennial confusion is deftly written by Susanna Fogel (who also directs) and Joni Lefkowitz, and the dialog actually sounds like the way a pair of smart and funny twentysomethings might really talk.”

Inkoo Kang, The Wrap: “A waxen falseness suffuses the stilted, stubbornly generic picture. Like the fast-food mozzarella sticks one of the characters devours in moments of existential woe, it feels like a calculated imitation rather than the real thing.”

Abhimanyu Das, Slant: “Its relatability is, ultimately, the key component of its success. As such, the experiences portrayed here are familiar to anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, who’s ever been abandoned by an old friend…”