Gillian Jacobs is happy “Life Partners” exists, as it’s a rare breed: a comedy about women, written by women, directed by a woman and produced by women. “I guess that doesn’t happen as often as I would like,” Jacobs tells us. The film stars her and Leighton Meester as friends — one straight, one a lesbian — so close they’re borderline co-dependent. When Jacobs’ character happens into a serious relationship, it threatens to capsize their friendship.
This is a comedy but one that takes seriously its characters’ issues.
There are a lot of aspects of this script that reminded me of myself and my own life and my own friendships. Sometimes the not-so-awesome parts of my personality were reflected in my character. [Laughs] I was like, “Yep, recognize that!” When I read the fight with Adam [Brody]’s character, where I show this need to win arguments — no one needed to explain that scene to me. I think the part is the one that’s closest to me that I’ve ever done.
It also treats seriously unresolved issues about when people have to choose maturing over less mature friendships.
When you’re younger romantic relationships are usually very messy or chaotic. You end up investing a lot in your friendships, because they’re stable and rewarding and usually supportive. When you hit a certain age and start having healthier relationships or better relationships, that can put a strain on your friendships, because your time is divided in a way it wasn’t when you were younger. This accurately depicts, I think, that moment when you have to be honest with your friends and say it’s OK to change.
Your character winds up falling for a guy, played by Adam Brody, who starts off with some weird, vaguely off-putting tics. But she stays with him.
This isn’t “Seinfeld,” so I don’t dump them because they wear weird tee-shirts. That’s an important lesson the character learns, to be more accepting of people. You shouldn’t try to passive aggressively makeover your boyfriend. That’s actually not a nice thing to do. And ultimately who cares what he’s wearing? Sometimes when you’ve dated people who are out-and-out disasters, you don’t have to think about your own faults and shortcomings. When you’re finally dating someone who’s smart and kind and respectful, and they bring up an issue they have with you, you have to take it seriously.
Screenwriters Susanna Fogel, who also directed, and Joni Lefkowitz, are both close friends. How much was based on themselves?
It’s loosely based on their own friendship and dynamic, but obviously changed for dramatic purposes. In real life, Joni, who’s the gay member of their writing partnership, is the one who’s married, and Susanna is the straight and single one. They flip-flopped that.
This had a couple other stars throughout its relatively long production history before starring you and Meester. How often does it happen that you’re waiting on an indie production that may never materialize?
I was once in a movie [2008’s “Gardens of the Night”] that the director had been trying to make for 15 years. I had almost happened several times. At one point it was going to be January Jones and Leonardo DiCaprio, when they were both 19 or 20. Eventually it was me and Evan Ross, 10 years later. There are movies where you’re days away from shooting and the money falls apart and it never winds up happening. Or it ends up happening a couple years later. Indie filmmaking is just an exercise in heartbreak.
You do a lot of comedy these days, but you didn’t start out in it. You did a lot of dramas.
That was my background. Up until “Community” was all very serious things. I never did comedy. I would love do something like that again. I did a one-day Shakespeare benefit in L.A. It really brought out the Shakespeare nerd of me from childhood.
What was it?
We did an abridged version of “As You Like It.” I did Rosalind. I think it’s the largest female role in Shakespeare, but you might want to Google that. [ed. Cleopatra, from “Antony and Cleopatra,” has the most lines, with 686, to Rosalind’s 677. But Rosalind has the highest percentage in a play, with 25 percent of the lines in “As You Like It.”] It was in it as a kid, so I had it all memorized, from back when I was 12. I could do the whole play myself. I would sit backstage and mouth along to the dialogue. When you’re 12 your brain is like a sponge. You can retain so much. I just learned the whole play.
You need to start putting it out there in interviews that you’re dying to do more Shakespeare. Maybe Kenneth Branagh will notice.
Is that how it works? If that’s how Hollywood works that would be awesome. I would just write blog posts all day about the parts I want to play. Branagh, he’s the one who got me into Shakespeare. I saw his “Much Ado About Nothing” when I was a kid and that’s what made me love Shakespeare.
Token “Community” question: Do you have any sense yet how it will be different, not only being on Yahoo but without Yvette Nicole Brown?
They don’t tell us anything, so I have no clue. I have no seen a single script or heard anything. The nature of the show is very fluid, so even though we’ll miss Yvette dearly — and we miss Donald [Glover] dearly — I think the steady group will continue. We’ll feel their absences but I don’t think it will change fundamentally the dynamic of the show. But that’s me speaking without having seen the script, so it could change the dynamic completely, and I could be totally wrong!
Speaking of which, you did “Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” which also features Chevy Chase. Did you two get to meet at all?
Our dates did not overlap at all, so I didn’t even see him. I don’t think we were in New Orleans at the same time. It would have been fun! It would have been fun to be completely different characters in a different context. That’s always awesome. It would be really fun to do anything with any of the “Community” people playing different characters.
“Life Partners” opens theatrically in New York City on Friday, Dec. 5 and is available now on VOD.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge