In Save The Date, Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie play sisters—and de facto, sometimes reluctant best friends—with fundamental differences in how they think about their romantic futures. Brie eagerly takes the lead in planning for her wedding to longtime boyfriend Martin Starr, and talks about starting a family with him; Caplan has taken two years to move in with her boyfriend (Geoffrey Arend) and just the thought of it makes her itch, to say nothing of the long-term commitment of marriage. Save The Date takes the familiar form of an indie romantic comedy—i.e. like its Hollywood counterpart, only slightly quirkier and with better music—but it’s set apart by the fact that Brie and Caplan are not so easily cleaved into the labels of “the happy bride” and “the commitment-phobe,” respectively. They share similar anxieties, but have opposing ways of dealing with them.
Playing the role of heartbreaker without trying to tidy up the wreckage left in her wake, Caplan is first shown packing boxes for the big move, and it’s a sign of her foot-dragging reluctance that several of the dishes are still caked with food. Shacking up with Arend, a sensitive indie-rock singer, makes sense to everyone but her: Starr is Arend’s bandmate, meaning the four of them could presumably be best friends and family, and maybe have a double wedding. But when Caplan turns down Arend’s proposal in humiliating fashion, she alienates everyone close to her and retreats into singlehood as a bookstore clerk and would-be artist with no firm plans for her life. When amiable rebound guy Mark Webber breaks her fall, even he seems to recognize that he’s walking into a buzzsaw.
A visit back home gives some indication of where Caplan and Brie are coming from: Their parents have stayed together all these years, but it hasn’t been smooth sailing. Here, as on Mad Men and Community, Brie displays a funny and poignant desire to force the world to conform to her hopes and expectations for it. It’s not like she doesn’t worry about how her marriage might work, but she’s determined to see it through. If anything, Caplan’s skepticism is more rational, but it’s not leading her on the road to happiness. Save The Date’s achievements are modest—it could be funnier and more affecting, and it ends with a shrug—but the film is wise about sibling relationships, the uncertainty of youth, and smaller matters, like the way people relate to each other after a break-up. There are no villains here, just young adults figuring out what they want, saving some dates, and cancelling others.