The comedy is about a codependent friendship between two very different girls—straight type-A Paige (Jacobs) and lesbian slacker Sasha (Meester)—who have made a pact. Paige has vowed that she won’t get married until Sasha has the same legal right. All is fine until Paige meets Tim (Brody), a young and charming doctor. As the relationship heats up, Paige and Sasha have to learn how to work Tim into their friendship.
“…Where Life Partners finds its footing is in its unwillingness to bend to any sort of classification. Instead, it allows a credible relationship to be tested right before our eyes. Many folks, not just women but men as well, will identify some of the very real, visceral concerns presented here that are part and parcel when approaching the advent of your 30s. Paige has the career, but lacks the romantic companionship. Sasha finds herself unmotivated to aggressively pursue the career she planned for, and her best friend’s life is ascending into normalcy while she’s still emotionally stuck at the age of 25. What begins as the story of two wayward women who share a bond over their hopeless pursuits of happiness, suddenly turns into a parental dynamic in which Paige, now imbued with a new-found sense of righteousness, makes Sasha’s downward spiral of age-inappropriate frivolity her personal crusade.
Fogel lets the story breathe in a sense, breaking the characters apart and giving them separate space to arrive at the solutions to their own issues alone. Surprisingly, and despite addressing the ever-present self-awareness of the millennial crowd up-to-and-including the bully pulpit of social media, there’s not a single character in the story that you don’t like.
Adam Brody may actually have the toughest role in the film, because his character Tim is the typical formulaic impetus that is often portrayed as the bad guy in films like these. Instead, he’s an instantly-likable guy whose only crime is falling in love with Sasha’s best friend, and maybe an overuse of insider film quotes. Gabourey Sidibe also has a small but fun role as one of Sasha’s fellow lesbian friends: Jen 1 (with one “n”), and her counterpart Jenn 2 played by the always entertaining Beth Dover. Current Saturday Night Live cast member Kate McKinnon also has a hilarious cameo as one of Sasha’s dates, who works as a stand-in on the popular-yet-creepy series “To Catch A Predator”, and former SNL alumna Abby Elliott plays another of Sasha’s potential girlfriends.
While I can’t say that Life Partners is a masterpiece, I can say that there is more to this fun little movie than meets the eye. In the end, Susanna Fogel has created a film that is at times a social satire, a romantic comedy, and a coming-of-age tale all woven together into a satisfying and heartfelt chronicle of a beautiful friendship. Voto 4/5.” (Damen Norton, HeyGuys.com)
Borrowing shades of autobiographical instances from their own lives, director Susanna Fogel and co-writer Joni Lefkowitz’s feature film debut, Life Partners, transcends the corral of niche markets and anchoring labels with its enthusiastic relatability as one of the most realistic examples of life’s circumstances forcing friends (a little bit) apart. Devoid of soapboxing subtexts or proselytizing with political agendas, Lefkowitz’s tender, sharply observed script gets fleshed out by a handful of genuinely engaging performances from both leads and supporting players. Familiar themes are presented refreshingly as Fogel expertly guides the film through the precarious catwalk of striking just the right balance between light drama and inventive comedy, inviting us to laugh at and with a strikingly composed cast of rich characters… Above all, it’s both Lefkowitz’s perceptive and screenplay and the great chemistry between Meester and Jacobs that makes Life Partners so intoxicating—the female buddy comedy has long been absent of such superlative qualities. More surprisingly is how the film isn’t able to simply be defined by stereotype or labels—it’s about two best friends, one who just happens to be a lesbian (and it’s refreshing to see the heterosexual end of the duo censure the other for her dips into senseless self-loathing). But what enhances the universal appeal of these characters is how naturally Life Partners plays out—there’s never a forced or bracingly melodramatic moment. Sasha and Paige aren’t perfect people and don’t always make the best choices for themselves or for each other, but reconciliations and eventual growth are hard won, their heavily pronounced character arcs evident in a 90 minute framework due to the care with which they were developed.
Leighton Meester’s winning performance is worth noting, a solid step above her presence in schlocky studio fare since graduating from the annals of “Gossip Girl.” An incredible comedic talent, it’s great to see Jacobs in a lead role instead of playing second fiddle in middling fare. As winning as Meester and Jacobs are together, other supporting players, like Adam Brody, Julie White, and Gabourey Sidibe get utilized in unanticipated ways.
While Fogel and Lefkowitz have collaborated on several television credits, including the series “Chasing Life,” they’ve already established an excitingly pronounced knack for creating funny, endearing, and engaging female characters that generate the type of pathos often sadly lacking in films described as breezy comedies about what many consider to be universally shared life experiences. Voto 3,5/5. (Nicholas Bell, Ioncinema.com)
To promote Susanna Fogel’s breezy Life Partners as a romantic comedy and an LGBT film would be, pointless pigeonholing aside, somewhat misleading. 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. In a cinematic landscape that routinely reduces female friendships to catfights-in-the-making or to idealized love affairs, Fogel’s knotty yet fair-minded account of one such bond feels refreshingly free of spiteful stereotypes or contrived plotting.
Through her sensitive screenplay, co-written by Joni Lefkowitz, and able collaboration with stellar leads Gillian Jacobs and Leighton Meester, Fogel reveals herself to be attuned to emotional nuance, to the ebbs and flows of a longstanding relationship. Jacobs and Meester play platonic life partners Paige and Sasha, joined at the hip for years and privy to each other’s existential peaks and troughs. Well-adjusted adults, however, tend to grow out of co-dependent friendships, and Life Partners is about that transitory moment when the dynamic shifts and one person is left behind. The adult in this instance is Paige, a successful environmental lawyer whose professional and personal prospects are expanding as quickly as musician turned secretary Sasha’s are diminishing. The turning point arrives when Paige falls for dorky dermatologist Tim (Adam Brody) after an amusing anti-meet-cute of a first date in which he’s appalled by her inability to catch quotes from The Big Lebowski while she balks at his defiantly normcore wardrobe. But as they learn to look past each other’s sartorial and cinematic choices and settle into a permanent relationship, Sasha is forced to relinquish her central place in Paige’s life to Tim, even as she flounders in the throes of a quarter-life crisis.
These characters, all of whom feel fleshed out and thoroughly lived-in, constitute the foundation of a story that unfolds organically, blessedly free of the twee self-regard common to films about millennials in flux. Which isn’t to say that the characters themselves aren’t occasionally narcissistic, as both Paige and Sasha can be selfish and inconsiderate in their own ways. 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. Fogel doesn’t allow Paige or Sasha any easy reconciliations; every eventual step forward is underscored by the vaguely discomfiting realization that the boundaries have been and, in fact, should be permanently redrawn.
The story’s pricklier stretches are leavened with just the right amount of witty exchanges, situational humor, and endearing bonding sessions to make the film feel like a thoroughly agreeable lark. It also helps that Life Partners never feels issue-driven or self-conscious. There are no Diablo Cody-esque faux-feminist agendas or all-encompassing statements about the post-recession woes of the terminally self-entitled. This is particularly evident in the handling of Sasha, who’s gay but whose sexuality is incidental to the central relationship and whose dating tribulations are never coded as somehow separate from the heterosexual milieu represented by Paige. While loud-and-proud LGBT characters are becoming comparatively common in entertainment, there’s still a dearth of nuanced, flesh-and-blood leads who just so happen to be gay or bisexual. This casually universal feel extends to every aspect of Life Partners, making it resistant to the sort of reductionist ghettoization (“Hey ladies!” bubbles one of the film’s promotional tweets) that often hobbles movies focusing on women or LGBT protagonists. 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 and left alone to face the badly dressed, Lebowski-resisting barbarians at the gate. Voto 3/4. (Abhimanyu Das, SlantMagazine.com)
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