Director and screenwriter Leslye Headland is making a career of making movies about relationships between the opposite sex. There are never-ending possibilities to explore, and with Bachelorette and About Last Night, she proves she can get the comedy right, but as with all films of the romantic nature, the romance itself doesn’t always ring true. Her latest film, Sleeping with Other People charms and has witty dialogue, seems to take a lot of its inspiration from When Harry Met Sally, but can sometimes be too much like it, and not in always in a good way.
College student Lainey (Alison Brie) is completely stuck on mostly unappreciative Matthew (Adam Scott)–who later shows to have some sociopath tendencies in his ability to not care. Being threatened to be kicked out of the dorm after making a raucous outside of Matthew’s door, in swoops Jake (Jason Sudeikis) to save her from leaving and they end up losing their virginity to each other. It isn’t until years later when they run into each other again.
By this point, they’re both well into their thirties, Jake is a womanizer and Lainey is a compulsive cheater and is still very much obsessed with Matthew, who is now engaged to another woman. Jake and Lainey agree to have a platonic relationship and call it out when there’s a moment of sexual tension between them. Of course at this point, you know exactly what will happen between the two of them and with witty dialogue and everyone constantly thinking they’re married to each other, the pair begin to fall in love with each other without realizing it.
There is a lot to appreciate about Sleeping with Other People, most of which is the dialogue and the chemistry between Brie and Sudeikis. This witty script is far above the usual romantic comedy, which is hard to come by these days. But in an attempt to try and be original, the film ends up becoming a modernized version of the same story we saw back in 1987. The one benefit here is that the entire scenario doesn’t become a “friends with benefits” situation, which would have been far too cliché and obnoxious to be taken seriously.
Jason Sudeikis is predictably funny here, relying on the same thing that has worked for him for years and works just as well in this film. However, it’s in the more quiet and dramatic moments that we see his acting ability flex itself a bit more. He shares great chemistry with Alison Brie, who is fantastic on her own merits even when her character isn’t always believable as one who would mope around for a guy (especially one as boring and stiff as Adam Scott’s character is here) who clearly doesn’t want to be with her. Regardless, her charisma shines through and she’s genuinely likable for the most part.
Headland, however, does tend to over-rely on established stereotypes of men and women in the realm of love. Both characters land on the extreme side of the spectrum and so this makes their changes come off as less believable and genuine. Regardless, there is still a lot to enjoy about Sleeping with Other People, one of which being the funny duo of Jason Mantzoukas and Andrea Savage, the married best friends of the lead characters. And although not everything in the film works, it’s likable overall and far better than most other romantic comedies the last couple of years.
Release Date: September 18, 2015 (in DC metro area) | Director and Screenwriter: Leslye Headland | Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Jason Mantzoukas, Andrea Savage, Amanda Peet | Genre: Romance, Comedy | MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, language including sexual references, and some drug use