Tag: Leighton Meester

Life Partners

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Life Partners Movie

Taglines: One guy can ruin the perfect relationship.

At 29, the most long-term relationship Sasha (Leighton Meester) and Paige (Gillian Jacobs) have ever been in is with each other, using their co-dependent friendship as an excuse not to venture out into the dating world alone. But when Paige meets nerdy Tim (Adam Brody) and starts to get serious for the first time, the nature of their friendship begins to shift. Fearing she’s being cast aside, Sasha tries to keep their relationship the same, but does growing up also mean growing apart?

Life Partners is an American comedy film directed by Susanna Fogel and co-written with Joni Lefkowitz. It is Fogel’s feature film directorial debut. The film stars Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs, Adam Brody, Greer Grammer, Gabourey Sidibe, and Julie White. The film premiered on April 18, 2014 at the Tribeca Film Festival in the Spotlight section. The film was released on November 6, 2014 on demand platforms, and in select theaters on December 5, 2014.

Set in Minneapolis, Minnesota, principal photography began in April 2013 and lasted 19 days. The film was primarily shot in Glendale, California and Eagle Rock, Los Angeles. Some scenes were shot at Griffith Park and at Long Beach, California during the Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride. Other scenes were also filmed in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Minneapolis skyline and a few Minneapolis landmarks are also shown in the film.

Life Partners Movie

Director’s Statement

We’ve all had a best friend. Especially for women, this relationship is as intense as any romantic partnership we will ever have. She’s the person we share our innermost fears with, the person who drives us to the emergency room, the person we bring as our date to weddings. Particularly nowadays, when people are encouraged to take their time in committing romantically, these quasi-marital friendships can last well into our 20s if not 30s, and are a huge part of the Zeitgeist.

It’s surprising, then, how rarely these friendships are accurately portrayed in American films. In mainstream romantic comedies, we’re treated to the “comic relief sidekick” friend who is unflaggingly supportive of the movie’s protagonist (and overly interested in her love life). And we’ve seen the onscreen frenemy who will stop at nothing to sabotage her “best friend” through broad set pieces that sometimes literally involve hair-pulling. But what about that person you love more than anyone in the world…but still talk about behind her back and find yourself subtly one-upping when you’re feeling insecure?

That person you love so much that it kills you to see her making mistakes and why doesn’t she just listen to you when you tell her how to fix her life? That person who drives you so crazy with her passive-aggressive crap that when you complain about it to the guy you’re dating, he can’t help but ask why you’re still friends with her because he just doesn’t get it? It’s that friendship my cowriter Joni and I set out to study with this film, in the tradition of films like Nicole Holofcener’s Walking and Talking that are unparalleled in their realism about female friendship and its absurd amazingness.

Life Partners Movie

Just as we believe there’s a dearth of honest films about female friendships, we also feel a need for films about gays and lesbians having relatable experiences in a diverse world. Joni and I identify differently (she’s gay, I’m straight) and we wanted to represent her community without focusing a narrative on “coming out” or emphasizing the politics of her sexuality in a way that would make the film niche. On the contrary, we wanted to universalize it. Not only did we want to show a platonic gay-straight friendship where neither character is romantically interested in the other, but in executing the script as a director, I strived for accessibility.

In casting, I sought actresses who were widely known and broadly appealing to play lesbians, like Leighton Meester who lends so much credibility, nuance and heart to a role that could not be further from her role on GOSSIP GIRL. As for her straight counterpart, I tried to avoid the plight of the generic romantic comedy heroine by casting Gillian Jacobs, an actress known for her quirky personality and cult comedy fanbase.

As far as my aesthetic approach to directing this film, I aimed for a combination of real and slightly elevated. I’ve always admired directors like Cameron Crowe who combine naturalistic writing and performances with a real sense of style that lends an element of wish fulfillment, fun and entertainment. With this in mind, I tried to encourage moments of spontaneity and raw emotion, while still delivering the scripted comedy and avoiding an overly improvisational or haphazard feel. I approached production design, costume and music with this same philosophy in mind, always aiming for a combination of real and slightly elevated.

With all that said, my hope with LIFE PARTNERS is to deliver a female friendship comedy that resonates and entertains, hitting that sweet spot between a “film” and a “movie” as it explores the universal theme of friendship…along with some related themes (sexuality, women at the center of their own narrative, to name two) that deserve more of a spotlight.

Life Partners Movie - Leighton Meester

On Sasha

“Leighton especially was really fun to transform from this gossip girl to someone who was representative of the lesbian community and who wasn’t passing as a lipstick lesbian. She doesn’t have a lot of money, she is thrift shopping her stuff or is inheriting it from different people or had it since college and I think making that evident was incredibly important, so we did that. Everything she wears is from a thrift shop or borrowed – it was a beg borrow and steal kind of movie.”

On Paige

“Your mid to late 20s are such a hard time to dress yourself because you don’t have the money to be the professional you want to be but you need to look professional and that’s something PAIGE has really nailed that SASHA hasn’t figured out. PAIGE is really reveling in being this young lawyer on a career path, and even in her casual wear, you see that.”

The rest of the team came together quickly but efficiently and in April 2013, the 19-day shoot began. Set in Minneapolis, LIFE PARTNERS was shot entirely on the east side of LA, primarily in Glendale and Eagle Rock.

The strong relationship between Leftowitz, Fogel and Mollick extended to their cast and crew, their relaxed professionalism creating a sense of ease and comfort for anyone on set. Fogel’s supportive and good-natured attitude as a director proved incredibly impactful. Meester elaborates, “She’s really ahead of what a lot of people are capable of at her age and especially for somebody who is directing their first feature, I’ve never seen someone be so humble and confident, creative, in tune, and collaborative.” Jacobs adds, “It’s one of the calmest sets I’ve ever been on and for a first time director, that’s really an accomplishment. Everyone seems happy to be at work every day and everything went smoothly. I’ve worked on a lot of movies this size where that is not the case and I think Susanna sets the tone, so it’s been really great.”

Even when Meester & Jacobs had an evening shoot in an unheated pool, playful shrieking and humming the Super Mario Brothers theme took the place of any potential complaining. Their immediate bond didn’t go unnoticed.

“With this the friendship connection between the girls is so important, you’re kind of just taking a gamble,” says Fogel. “You have meetings with each one and if you feel like they would like each other, you just roll the dice on that, but we’re glad they ended up really clicking and becoming friends.” Lefkowitz continues, “I’m sure by the last day they were speaking another language. On day one, everyone was a little nervous and tense but seriously, by day two, they were humping each other before every take, we were like ‘WHAT is happening?’ – we’re just so lucky we found two people with such an odd sense of humor, like Gillian would come to set in a tree costume and they would make crazy videos, they just thought the same weird things were funny and made the same weird voices when they would rehearse their scenes. They related to each other in that weird way and that’s just luck that they were both the same brand of abnormal.”

Jacobs adds, “This movie is all about our friendship and you don’t really know when you meet each other what you’re actually like and turns out she’s a freak like me, so it’s been awesome…we both realized we were goofy weirdoes early on. It’s fun to have someone like that, where you can be as weird as you want to be. The whole crew was kind of like that on this film so it was a fun, silly environment for us.”

The last day of shooting, which took place at Griffith Park, production bought a food truck for the crew and Brody brought in more cupcakes from his favorite bakery than a small independent film crew could possibly eat. It is worth noting not a cast or crew member was absent at the wrap party where karaoke was involved and shirts featuring an inside joke from set printed on the front were disseminated among the group.

Heading towards the film’s festival run, Fogel & Lefkowitz ruminate on how far they have come. “There’s so much that we reflect on and write about that comes from our friendship and how much we’ve changed over the years,” says Fogel. “We always mine our own lives and experiences for stories, but when we met we were both so different. Joni wasn’t out of the closet yet and I was a weird insecure pretentious indie rock person. We evolved into grownups together and we will continue to do that over the next few decades. Having met right after college and now being in our 30s and making this big leap to this next phase of our careers is exciting to do together.”

Life Partners Movie Poster

Life Partners

Directed by: Susanna Fogel
Starring: Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs. Adam Brody, Mark Feuerstein, Julie White, Abby Elliot, Greer Grammer, Kate McKinnon, Beth Dover, Gabourey Sidibe
Screenplay by: Susanna Fogel, Joni Lefkowitz
Production Design by: Matt Luem
Cinematography by: Brian Burgoyne
Film Editing by: Kiran Pallegadda
Costume Design by: Courtney Hoffman
Set Decoration by: Danielle Laubach
Art Direction by: Nicolas Kelley
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content.
Studio; Magnolia Pictures
Release Date: December 5, 2014

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By the Gun

By the Gun Movie

Taglines: Nick wanted to be a made man until he found a reason to get out.

Ben Barnes plays Nick, an ambitious young man running with the Boston crime syndicate. Once on the inside he realizes that the glory days of the Mafia are long gone. Behind his boss’s (Harvey Keitel) back he decides to strike out on his own and expand the business. Seemingly on top of the world with more money than he could have dreamed of and a great girl (Leighton Meester), Nick soon realizes that by making his own rules he’s put himself and everyone he loves in grave danger.

By the Gun is an American crime drama film directed by James Mottern and written by Emilio Mauro. The film stars Ben Barnes, Leighton Meester, Harvey Keitel, Kenny Wormald, Toby Jones, Paul Ben-Victor and Ritchie Coster.

By the Gun Movie Poster

By the Gun

Directed by: James Mottern
Starring: Leighton Meester, Ben Barnes, Toby Jones, Harvey Keitel, Kenny Wormald, Julie Ann Dawson, Ritchie Coster, Stacey Queripel
Screenplay by: Emilio Mauro
Production Design by: Jennifer Gerbino
Cinematography by: Jimmy Lindsey
Film Editing by: Banner Gwin
Costume Design by: Honah Lee Milne
Set Decoration by: Kevin C. Lang, Dara Smith
Music by: Nathan Whitehead
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, sexual content, nudity, language throughout and some drug use.
Studio: Millennium Entertainment
Release Date: December 5, 2014

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The Judge

The Judge Movie

Taglines: Defend your honor.

Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

The Judge is an American drama film directed by David Dobkin. The film stars Robert Downey, Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Dax Shepard, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Lancaster, and Billy Bob Thornton. The film was released in the United States on October 10, 2014. It received mixed reviews; critics praised the performances of Downey and Duvall but criticized the formulaic nature of its script and the lack of development for its supporting characters.

Hank Palmer is one of the best defense attorneys in Chicago. In the courtroom, Hank gets a phone call from his brother telling him that their mother died. Hank requests that the trial be suspended until he can return. While packing at home, Hank’s wife tries to console him, but he rebuffs her and reveals he’s aware of her recent infidelity and her attempts to find a divorce lawyer.

He leaves for Carlinville, Indiana for his mother’s funeral. Hank pays his respects at the funeral home viewing, where he meets with his brothers Dale and Glen. Hank then goes to watch his dad, Judge Joseph Palmer, in the courtroom. At the end of the case, Judge Palmer struggles to remember Bailiff Gus’ name. The next morning, the Palmers leave to get breakfast without telling Hank. After showing up late, Hank sees that his high school girlfriend, Samantha, works at the diner.

The Judge Movie

At the funeral, Joseph is warm and friendly to everyone except Hank, who takes offense that he isn’t more welcome. That night, the Palmer boys go to a local bar, while Joseph goes to the convenience store. At the bar, a group of local rednecks antagonize Glen and Dale. Before Glen engages them in a fight, Hank steps in and uses his confident charisma and knowledge of legal repercussions to dissuade the rednecks of any violence. Carla the bartender, impressed with Hank’s suave nature, makes out with him in the bar’s phone booth by the end of the night.

The next morning, the Hank notices damage to his father’s car and while Joseph suspects his sons or grandsons, Hank and Dale swear that Joseph was the only one to use the car. The police show up to question Joseph about his whereabouts the night before, because there’s been a deadly hit and run. As a defense attorney, Hank urges his father not to speak willingly with the police, but Joseph has faith in the system and his own innocence and is happy to comply with the sheriff’s requests.

Joseph goes in for questioning, and Hank accompanies him. They are told a man named Mark Blackwell was run off the road while riding a bike and that both Joseph and Blackwell were seen at the convenience store the night before. It’s revealed that twenty years prior, as a young man, Blackwell shot out his girlfriend’s windows in a rage. When brought to trial, Joseph treated him with leniency after believing his excuses that he was simply young, drunk and stupid and sentenced him to thirty days in prison, after which Blackwell promptly kidnapped his ex-girlfriend and drowned her as retribution.

Blackwell is sentenced to twenty years for his crimes (the harshest sentence Joseph could impose) and his story is considered to be Joseph’s biggest failure as a Judge. Finding this to be sufficient motive for Joseph to run Blackwell off the road, an investigation is formally opened. Hank finds out Dwight Dickham is going to be handling the prosecution. Dickham has a ruthless reputation, and Hank sticks around to help despite Joseph’s protestations that he does not want Hank for his defense.

While investigating for the upcoming trial, Hank rides his old bike along the same road that Blackwell was hit on, when he hits a rock and is thrown over the handlebars. Samantha happens upon him while he’s on the ground and gives him a ride back to town, introducing him to her daughter, who is revealed to be Carla, the bar-tender that Hank had kissed a few nights prior. Hank and Carla share nervous glances but don’t let on their past history to Samantha.

A security tape from the convenience store shows that Joseph lied about his trip home, and his timeline doesn’t match up. Hank asks Dale about their father’s medical condition and Dale says that he’s fine and that he simply plays chess with Doc Morris every week. As Joseph hates chess and doctors Hank is tipped off to a potential problem, when confronted Joseph reveals he has been receiving chemotherapy for colon cancer, which was caught too late to be effectively treatable. Side effects of the chemo include memory loss which Hank believes could provide a legal defense for Joseph’s actions. Joseph refuses to have his cancer brought up, believing that any doubt in his mental state will undermine all of his recent judgments and legacy overall.

Hank’s daughter comes to Indiana to visit for the weekend. Hank warns her that his father is mean and she shouldn’t take it personally but to Hank’s surprise, his dad is delightful to Lauren. That night, Hank and Lauren hang out and hear a noise, Hank checks and finds that his dad has fallen down, is getting sick, and soils himself as Hank tries to help. Hank takes him into the bathtub and helps clean him with the shower head.

The Judge Movie Poster

The Judge

Directed by: David Dobkin
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Leighton Meester, Billy Bob Thornton, Sarah Lancaster
Screenplay by: Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque
Production Design by: Mark Ricker
Cinematography by: Janusz Kaminski
Film Editing by: Mark Livolsi
Costume Design by: Marlene Stewart
Set Decoration by: Rena DeAngelo
Music by: Rena DeAngelo
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: October 10, 2014

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