Movie Review: Gay love goes demure for “Life Partners”

Sasha and Paige are more than best-friends. They connect, they finish each other’s sentences.
They’re “Life Partners.” And as such, they have rituals — date night consists of drinking, watching “Top Model” together and mocking it, and spying each other in traffic is a queue to stage a fake “road rage” tirade for their own amusement, the more shocked onlookers the better.
They have figured out their future.
“I guess we’re gonna end of dying alone, like planned.”
But they’re gorgeous and they’re hitting their late 20s. They both seem to get they’re peaking, they’re facing adulthood and it’s time to get on with it.
Sasha (Leighton Meester of “Gossip Girl”) is gay, an aspiring folk singer-songwriter (totally NOT a cliche), bar-hopping and barely getting by on her own as an inept receptionist.
Paige (Gillian Jacobs of “Community”) isn’t. She’s an environmental lawyer with a house, a Prius and a little more urgency in her days.
So as adorable as their banter is — “Which one of us is a lesbian?” — as close as they are, Sasha and Paige are headed for trouble.
Their gay BFF’s, Jen (Gabourey Sidibe) and Jenn (Beth Dover), can sense it. Sort of.
“Oh my God, why is every lesbian named ‘Jen’?'”
“Life Partners” is a slight and somewhat demure romantic comedy/friendship comedy built around two mildly interesting characters.
Sasha is prone to hooking up with women so young they still live with their parents. She likes the “dumb lesbian drama” of her life, the gay bar scene, its attendant comic rituals (sex toy “swordfight” competitions), “How many lesbians fit in a Subaru?” contests and “pride” parades.
Paige is a control freak, never apologizing, judgmental but indulgent of her new beau, Tim “the doctor.”
Tim (Adam Brody, who broke out of “The O.C.”) may be a doctor, but he’s “only” a dermatologist. He’s dorky, too fond of “message” t-shirts and is obsessed with firing off snatches of dialogue from his favorite movies, which naturally includes “The Big Lebowski.”
But he’s enough to come between the “Life Partners,” to ruin “Top Model” wine-drunk sleepovers and all that comes with them.
The most fun elements here are the fake road rage scenes and assorted cute slices of communal lesbian life.
Meester, the third choice for the lead (Kristen Bell and Evan Rachel Wood both dropped out), manages a perky “butch” walk and handles Sasha’s sweet cluelessness well. But she’s a character with no edge, which goes for the film as well. You get the feeling Sasha is still exploring her sexual options, just from the lack of heat with her various hook-ups. That’s not the way the character was written, and that arm’s length treatment of Sasha’s sexuality makes the film feel 15 years out of date.
Jacobs is even more generic, though she has some very funny scenes with her mom (Julia White of “Transformers”). Brody is stuck playing a shadow of a cliche. You want to know why actresses roll their eyes at the way the male-dominated film industry portrays them on screen, check out the grab bag of shtick director/co-writer Susanna Fogel and co-writer Joni Lefkowitz saddle Brody with here. Do they KNOW any men?
But Jacobs and Meester click, on some level, and there are enough sparks of life in each performance that we buy them as the pals they say they’re are, even if we can all-too-easily see the break-up that they never suspect is coming.

1half-starMPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content
Cast: Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs, Adam Brody, Gabourey Sidibe, Beth Dover

Credits: Directed by Susanna Fogel, written by Joni Lefkowitz and Susanna Fogel. A Magnolia release.

Running time: 1:32

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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