Netflix Unknowns: 'Life Partners'

Uncover the hidden gems of Netflix with arts reporter Noelle Lilley each week as she taps into this treasure-trove of undiscovered potential.

Hey there, guys and gals, this week I'm going to review the 2014 movie "Life Partners," directed by Susanna Fogel. Up until recently, this movie was another one of those meant-to-watch-but-never-got-around-to-it films, like many on Netflix are.

"Life Partners" stars the ever-lovely Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester as the aspiring artist and lesbian Sasha with her co-star Gillian Jacobs, an uptight environmental lawyer named Paige. The ladies are a pair of very codependent best friends who are attached at the hip, have weekly America's Next Top Model watch parties and openly prefer each other's company over anyone else's. Neither of them are in relationships — and probably haven't been in awhile — which leaves them to spend almost all of their time together.

All is well in their world until the duo decides to try blind dating: Sasha hates her date while Paige falls head over heels for Tim (Adam Brody), a dorky but charming dermatologist. As Paige and Tim grow more and more serious, Sasha and Paige's friendship is put to the test.

Plot: 5/5

Here's the thing about this plot: Most of the time in movies where a girl friendship is at risk over a boy, it's because both of the girls have feelings for him and are fighting over him. This storyline is redundant to the point that it becomes almost insulting to see it still being used in so many films. That was probably a big part of the reason why it took me forever to get around to watching it. Netflix's description of the film doesn't help either because it leaves out a key part of the plot: Sasha is a lesbian. Sasha is not interested in Tim. Sasha and Paige are not fighting over Tim. Instead, the girls' friendship suffers due to them growing apart as Tim and Paige grow closer. One could even argue that rather than fighting over him they were fighting over each other

Furthermore, aside from her relationship with Tim, Paige was simply maturing a lot faster than Sasha and unwilling to wait for her friend to catch up. While Sasha was still content partying all night and working dead-end jobs, Paige was thinking about marriage and kids. Tim was a factor in their friendship's deterioration, sure, but he wasn't the catalyst. Then I thought of another typical plot tool, especially in LGBT films: The Story of the Gay Friend Who Falls For the Straight Fiend They Know Is Straight. I was wrong again as this was not the direction the movie took. This was an absolute breath of fresh air. 

Cinematography: 2/5

If you're looking for beautiful cinematography then this movie isn't it. Gorgeous scenery and colors have become a sort of staple of independent-style, low budget films but "Life Partners" does not follow suit. As a whole, the movie doesn't necessarily suffer because of this aspect, but it might affect your feelings if you have a soft spot for aesthetics. 

via GIPHY

Acting: 4/5

As a recovering — okay, maybe chronic — "Gossip Girl" watcher and fan, let me tell you, it was a strange experience to see Leighton Meester as a carefree lesbian musician rather than the fierce queen bee of the Upper East Side, Blair Waldorf. I haven't actually watched her in many big roles since the show ended in 2012. However, I thought she executed the role fantastically. She was funny, quirky and believable. Gillian Jacobs did well in her spot, too. After finishing the film, I wanted to marry Adam Brody's character Tim. He was the perfect equilibrium of sweet and intelligent with just a dash of corniness that was both endearing and lovable.  

Direction: 4.5/5

As aforementioned, I enjoyed the film's unique direction in its portrayal of a complex friendship between two women. It was also extremely funny. The director co-wrote the joke-riddled film with Joni Lefkowitz and the two of them exceeded my expectations. There were moments where I actually laughed out loud and hit rewind to enjoy the scene again. There was also enough "aww" kissy-kissy without becoming overwhelming or vomit-inducing. 

Nonetheless, there was a component of the film that drove me crazy. This might be a slight spoiler, but I'm willing to recount it because it's not huge enough to where it changes the plot. In the film's beginning, our two heroines are both 28 and later, Sasha turns 29. Age isn't a big part of most movies but in "Life Partners" it is. The girls are struggling to find out who they are in the "real world" and the central conflict is that one girl is maturing and ready to move on more so than the other. This idea failed to me as a viewer because the two actresses didn't look their character's age. The duo acted more like sophomores in college. The theme of growing up is something college students may be able to relate to, one that is found in this film. We all will eventually transition into adulthood where we pay our bills and have health insurance and whatever other boring things adults do. If Sasha and Paige were written as younger, say 25 years old then a college audience would be able to relate more. 

Overall Average: 3.8/5


Related Links:

Netflix Unknowns: Copenhagen (2014)

Netflix Unknowns: Girlhood (2015)


Tell the reporter what you thought of "Life Partners" at nlilley@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @noelledl.

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