Life Partners ***

Is it worth $10? Yes

“Life Partners” begins with 29 year-old Sasha in her car, angry. Stopped at a traffic light, she calls the driver of the car in front of her a “bitch” and complains of being cut off. Unabashed, Paige, from the car in front, yells back “you almost knocked my side view mirror off, slut!” Numerous F-bombs ensue as they argue, and harried onlookers don’t know what to make of it.

All fun and games, we learn. Sasha (Leighton Meester) and Paige (Gillian Jacobs) are best friends, and this is part of their shtick. They think it’s funny, and it is funny. We immediately like them. They’re good together. They finish one another’s sentences, enjoy the same bad TV, and even know what type of pillow the other sleeps on. Sasha is a lesbian and Paige is not, but it doesn’t matter: There’s never sexual tension between them, nor is it implied. These two are deeply connected at an emotional level, not a physical one. And as has happened to many great friendships through the years, someone is about to come between them and mess everything up.

Enter Tim (Adam Brody) – a nice guy, bad dresser and movie fanatic obsessed with “The Big Lebowski.” There are worse things. Most importantly he clicks with Paige, who said she wanted a guy she likes as much as Sasha, and now she’s found one. But the closer Paige and Tim become, the more she and Sasha fade from one another. For Sasha it’s not jealousy so much as it is not being able to sleep over after she gets drunk. Paige enjoys the best of both worlds for a while, and then doesn’t recognize the tension with Sasha as quickly as she should.

It’s a treat to watch Meester and Jacobs together. Their chemistry is so infectious that we smile during their happy moments and can feel the awkwardness when things aren’t how they should be. In one scene during a tough time for the pair they go for a walk. The fake smiles, passive-aggressive hostility and BS compliments are on par with frenemy schoolgirls who secretly hate each other. It’s the saddest scene in the film, because neither is admitting what’s obviously wrong between them.

Brody is fine as stoic beta-male Tim, and the rest of the cast provides comic relief. Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”) plays one of Sasha’s horrible blind dates, Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”) portrays an untrustworthy friend, Beth Dover plays a histrionic friend, and Abby Elliott (“How I Met Your Mother”) plays the object of everyone’s affection. All of these women provide comic relief and are lesbians, which is the wrong demographic to target because the film has mass-market appeal. Many people have lost close friendships due to relationships, right.

What becomes interesting as writer/director Susanna Fogel’s story evolves is not just the angst between Sasha and Paige, but also how their own personalities contribute to the tension. Paige is an environmental lawyer who adamantly refuses to admit she’s wrong, which leads to issues with Tim as well. Sasha is a free-spirited aspiring musician who works a boring day job and is a total mess. To her credit she doesn’t use lesbianism as a crutch or excuse for her woes, but she clearly does need to get it together.

These characteristics add complexity and depth to the story and make it far more fascinating than a typical dramedy. What’s implicit but left unspoken is this: Sex changes everything. Paige loves Sasha as much as she does Tim, and may even be more comfortable with Sasha than anyone else, but the physical nature of the relationship with Tim finds Paige naturally drawn to him. Mankind’s desire for companionship is one thing, but the desire for intercourse is on another level.

“Life Partners,” when viewed with a close friend, will leave you proclaiming you’ll never do that to one another. When viewed with a significant other, it will leave you reflecting on whom you might have already done that to. By no means is it a perfect movie, but it is timely and relevant.

Did you know?

Both Kristen Bell and Evan Rachel Wood had to decommit to playing Sasha due to their respective pregnancies.

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