A gay woman and her best friend watch BFF film “Life Partners”

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I’m a sucker for stories about female friendship. That’s why Life Partners, a charming comedy about two pals—one straight, one gay—appealed to me. Type-A lawyer Paige (Gillian Jacobs) and aimless wannabe musician Sasha (Leighton Meester) are goofy soul mates who crack themselves up by pretending to fight in public and commiserate over bad OkCupid dates. Until Paige meets Tim (Adam Brody), a guy she could actually get serious with—and Sasha starts feeling super weird about it.

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I know where you think this is going, guys. I assumed going in that the queer friend would harbor feelings for the straight one (since it’s a cliche and also my life). But one of the most interesting things about this movie is there’s no hint of romantic tension between the two women. Instead, we’re treated to a fully realized, intimate-but-platonic friendship. The thing about those lady-buddy movies I love so much is they’re usually about straight women, since movie logic prohibits two people whose sexualities overlap from ever being “just friends.” To celebrate this rarity, I watched it with my (not straight) best friend.

“I’m already so charmed!” she exclaimed a few minutes in. I concurred. Writer/director Susana Fogel and co-writer Joni Lefkowitz, actual best friends, have crafted a witty script that captures the fun of a drunken sleepover with your BFF. Jacobs and Meester have a natural chemistry together, whether they’re lovingly teasing, passive-aggressively sniping, or both at once. Their friendship feels authentic, and so do the complications that arise when Tim enters the picture.

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Most of us can relate to feeling displaced by a friend’s new partner, and Fogel and Lefkowitz mine that awkwardness for comedy gold without glossing over the real pain of it. But Paige’s relationship is just the catalyst that brings to light deeper issues between the two friends: At 29, Paige seems to be settling into a real, adult life, while Sasha’s still wasting her potential at a temp job and hooking up with immature girls like the one “whose roommate might or might not be her ex.” Both are fumbling towards growing up in different ways, and beneath the surface, Paige is no better at it than Sasha.

It’s refreshing to see a queer character struggle with something other than their sexuality, as Sasha does. The character doesn’t feel othered, though we never forget she’s gay. The glimpses into her drama-laden lesbian social circle (rounded out by the very funny Beth Dover, Gabourey Sidibe and Abby Elliott) evoked lolsobs of recognition from my bestie and I, though we couldn’t figure out whether some of their more fun-looking social events were actual Things in LA. And when Kate McKinnon briefly graced the screen as Sasha’s date from Hell, we mocked her antics and then agreed we would totally date her anyway.

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We also agreed that Paige’s relationship with Tim is never as compelling as the friendship that grounds the movie. Studies suggest queer audiences don’t care about characters named Tim, but I think it’s more than that. Tim’s annoying qualities are initially played for laughs, and he’s enjoyable as a foil to both Sasha and Paige. But as Paige fell harder for him, we were baffled. “I mean, he’s basically fine,” my friend offered begrudgingly (previously having proclaimed “I hate this guy”).

In a world where mainstream film and queer film rarely intersect, Life Partners seems to defy categorization by splitting its focus so evenly between its straight and gay protagonists. I look forward to seeing more films like this aimed at a broad audience, featuring queer characters whose queerness isn’t a plot point or their defining characteristic, but just part of who they are. Overall, this is a fun flick that just might give you some feelings (especially if you’ve ever had a codependent relationship with your best friend).

Life Partners is available on VOD and iTunes this Thursday, November 5.

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