'Life Partners': Film Review

The two stars display a winning chemistry in this amusingly observant study of female friendship

Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs play devoted best friends in Susanna Fogel's female buddy comedy

Male buddy movies are a dime a dozen, so it's particularly refreshing that Susanna Fogel's debut feature deals with the friendship between two women, with one of them being gay to boot. Although trafficking in the inevitable cliches endemic to such comedies, Life Partners boasts a sweetly relaxed vibe that makes it go down easily thanks to the witty screenplay by Fogel and Joni Lefkowitz and the highly appealing performances by Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) and Gillian Jacobs (Community).

Beginning with the sort of contrived scene that hardly sets a promising tone — Sasha (Meester) and Paige (Jacobs) get involved in a road rage confrontation, which is later revealed to be a running gag for their own amusement — the film soon settles down into being a quietly winning character study of two women reaching crossroads in their lives as they face turning thirty.

The sort of codependent friends who have frequent sleepovers featuring reality television watching and wine drinking binges, neither woman has found a romantic relationship that measures up. Paige seems to be the more conventional one, with a successful career as an environmental lawyer, while Sasha, an aspiring singer-songwriter, has to make ends meet with a dead-end receptionist job.

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The relationship inevitably shifts when Paige begins a romance with the sweet-natured Tim (Adam Brody, Meester's real-life spouse), a nerdy, sartorially challenged dermatologist whose primary character trait is reciting quotations from movies like Talladega Nights and The Big Lebowski, neither of which, to his horror, has Paige seen.

Attempting to pick up her own romantic slack, Sasha embarks on a series of dates, including a disastrous one with a To Catch a Predator-style reality television show investigator, before beginning a relationship with a much younger woman who still lives with her mother. Bemusedly observing the women's antics — including Sasha's engaging in a sex toy "swordfight" and participating in a contest involving how many lesbians can be packed into a car — are their gay friends Jenn (Beth Dover) and Jen (Gabourey Sidibe).

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The film occasionally veers off into tiresome subplots, such as Paige's inability to admit her responsibility for a fender bender with her next-door neighbor (Mark Feuerstein) — a character flaw she obviously inherited from her overly controlling mother (Julie White). The emotional conflicts periodically doled out smack more of screenwriting manipulation than real life, and the periodic attempts at slapstick feel forced. But when it settles down, Life Partners effectively conveys the complexities of relationships, of both the romantic and friendship variety, which inevitably arise as situations change. By the time it reaches its heartwarming conclusion you'll find yourself wanting to be best friends with Sasha and Paige as well.

Production companies: Red Crown Productions, Haven Entertainment, Minerva Productions, Sandia Media
Cast: Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs, Adam Brody, Mark Feuerstein, Julie White, Abby Elliott, Greer Grammer, Kate McKinnon, Beth Dover, Gabourey Sidibe
Director: Susanna Fogel
Screenwriters: Susanna Fogel, Joni Lefkowitz
Producers: Joni Lefkowitz, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Riva Marker, Brendan Bragg, Jordana Mollick
Executive producers: Anne O'Shea, Peter Touche, Daniel Crown
Director of photography: Brian Burgoyne
Production designer: Matt Luem

Costume designer: Courtney Hoffman
Editor: Kiran Pallegadda
Composer: Eric D. Johnson
Casting directors: Sunday Boling, Meg Morman

Rated R, 93 minutes