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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Life Partners (Blu-ray)
Life Partners (Blu-ray)
Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // March 3, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted March 3, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly
"I just want to meet a guy I like as much as you. Is that too much to ask?"

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Paige (Gillian Jacobs) and Sasha (Leighton Meester) are soulmates. No, no, I don't mean that in some swelling-orchestral-strings flavor of epic romance kinda way, even though they are dialed into each others' phones as "Husband" and "Wife". They spend pretty much every waking hour together, and the two of 'em are so keen on sleepovers that they spend pretty much every not-waking hour together too. They call each other on the can, they guzzle entire bottles of white zin over weekly vivisections of America's Next Top Model, and they frantically text the microsecond a bad date is in the rear view mirror.

Speaking of which...! Sasha's somehow clawed her way out of the most excruciatingly awful blind date in recorded history, somehow enduring an evening with a way-too-dramatic egomaniac (Kate McKinnon) who lures herself out as bait for sex predators online. True to form, she immediately dials up her 'wife' to hear how Paige's lousy online date went. And, yeah, Tim (Adam Brody) does gives Paige all sorts of stuff to snark about, prone to wearing hipstery message tees and aggressively quoting his favorite movies. It's just that it's not so much how her date went so much as how it's still going, and there's enough there there for Paige to be game for a second date. And a third. And a fourth. And a...

Before you know it, Paige is in a relationship. Sasha tries to surprise her with a party after Paige wins her first big case at work, but she can't make it 'cause she's off celebrating with Tim. Sasha gets the DVR and two glasses of pinot grigio ready for ANTM, and...yeah, she winds up sitting on her couch by herself then too. I mean, it's not Tim's fault. The two of 'em were already pretty different people. As they stare down the barrel of thirty, Paige is a fairly successful environmental lawyer with a cozy little house, while Sasha answers phones at a commercial real estate firm or something, reluctantly cashing checks from her parents who still think she's gonna be a multiplatinum musician someday soon. Life with Tim just has Paige tearing down the road she was inevitably gonna travel that much sooner.

So, Life Partners is about two women navigating the uncertain waters of adulthood, charting courses that generally steer them apart from one another. It'd probably be easy to sum the premise up as Ghost World-plus-eleven-years, but that's not really doing it justice. Sure, Paige is the more responsible of the two, but that doesn't necessarily mean that she's figured it out. She's still saddled with that "even when I'm wrong, I'm right" dismissiveness towards basically anyone willing to butt heads with her, up to and including her best friend. She's the sort of person who texts while backing out of her driveway, clips a neighbor's bumper, and refuses to acknowledge even a little bit of blame. Paige has had her life mapped out pretty much from word one, and this relationship with Tim looks like it'll help her check off all sorts of "now I'm a real adult!" boxes. Sasha, meanwhile, settled into a comfortable rut in her early twenties and never really figured out what to do from there. She sought out a mindless, unrewarding, go-nowhere day job so she could better focus on her music at night, but anymore, writing is more of a heaving-sigh obligation she pretty much always shrugs off. Paige has been an infectiously fun distraction for years and years now, but with the two of them having drifted apart, there's...not...really anything left to make getting out of bed all that worth it. The people she tries to fill that void with wind up being one colossally bad decision after another.

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A lazier movie maybe would've forced Paige to make all the "right" decisions while Sasha makes all the "wrong" ones, only to realize that happiness is somewhere in the middle, with the two of 'em arm-in-arm together. Whatever. Life Partners isn't like that. A hell of a lot goes wrong in Sasha's life, but she's not willfully self-destructive like, say, Enid in Ghost World. She's lost someone who meant the world to her, and she's struggling to find something else to bring her that same level of satisfaction. Sasha's just not all that well-versed in the art of making things happen, instead prone to settling for a familiar routine...for whatever's easy. Paige's Type A personality ensures she can more adeptly seize hold of the things she wants, but it also makes it tough for her to accept 'em on anything other than her own terms.

That's just one of many, many delicate balancing acts that Life Partners executes perfectly. The runtime is split pretty evenly between Paige and Sasha, with no one character really dominating the story. With the exception of a couple of cartoonier characters in the margins, pretty much everyone in the movie is like someone you know in everyday life. A more heightened version, yeah, but just about all of 'em are complex, likeable, and flawed in very real ways. I can't get enough of its wry sense of humor. Something as seemingly mundane as the sight of a Prius slooooowly backing up managed to coax one of the longest, hardest laughs outta me of any comedy in recent memory, and I can relate more than I'd like to admit about the movie's fascination with America's Next Top Model's batshit insanity. Life Partners does a tremendous job letting us get to know (and like!) its characters and to establish a lifelong friendship that feels very, very real before doling out any of the more dramatic elements. It's a tonal transition that's really deftly handled. I can't say enough good things about the dialogue and dead-on characterization. Life Partners couldn't be more perfectly cast either. The sharp writing sure does help, of course, but the subtle glances, body language, and facial expressions are what really bring these characters to life. I'm thrilled that there's not a hackneyed love triangle to get in the way, and it's equally appreciated, even though she is a lesbian, that Sasha's love for Paige remains entirely platonic. Sasha's sexuality is very much a part of who she is and is never treated as a plot point. It's kind of awesome that so much of the primary and supporting cast is gay while feeling so comfortable and effortless. I've read interviews with director/co-writer Susanna Fogel where she's said that it was a similar ratio with the crew behind-the-scenes, and I'm sure that plays a huge part in how right this all comes across. In fact, "just right" sums up basically everything about Life Partners, an under-the-radar comedy that's sweet, funny, sincere, well-crafted, and very Highly Recommended.


Video
Lensed with the RED Epic, every last frame of Life Partners is crisp and overflowing with detail. The thought and consideration paid to its design are readily apparent, and I particularly love the use of color, most memorably as Sasha and her pals are hanging out under the light of day. I really couldn't spot any sputters or stutters in the authoring of this disc, making for a terrific experience all around.

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Life Partners arrives on a single-layer disc at an aspect ratio of 2.39:1.


Audio
Life Partners is rockin' a six-channel, 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Dialogue is far and away the primary focus here, and it's consistently reproduced cleanly and clearly throughout. The surround channels do a nice job reinforcing the score and subtly fleshing out atmospheric effects, helping to ensure that everything feels organic and alive. Bass response is very modest, but Life Partners isn't exactly the type of movie that's hellbent on rattling the room with devastatingly low frequencies or whatever anyway. I wouldn't have minded a little more of a low-frequency bite to the music, but really, I'm not left with any complaints at all.

No dubs or commentaries this time around. Optional subtitles are served up in English (SDH) and Spanish.


Extras
  • Mini-Featurettes (10 min.; HD): The first of Life Partners' featurettes spends a couple minutes chatting up the cast, who talk about the characters they're playing and how much of themselves they see in 'em. As earnest and likeable as these extremely short conversations are, "Cast and Characters" is very much geared towards an audience that hasn't already seen the movie. Not exactly essential viewing. Ditto for "AXS TV: A Look at Life Partners", which also clocks in at two and a half minutes in length. This promotional featurette is basically the trailer with a few lines' worth of interviews sprinkled throughout. The only featurette with any real substance or insight to deliver is a five minute look at the production and costume design.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): The only other extra is a high-def trailer.

The Final Word
Sweet, sincere, and remarkably funny, Life Partners is so marvelously crafted that it can make fast food mozzarella sticks the linchpin of one of the movie's most emotionally resonant moments. Figuring out how to grow up may be a standard issue premise for indie dramedies, but few have executed it anywhere near as wonderfully as Life Partners. Highly Recommended.
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