SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE
Director: Leslye Headland
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Jason Mantzoukas, Natasha Lyonne, Amanda Peet, Andrea Savage, Adam Brody
MPAA Rating: (for strong sexual content, language including sexual references, and some drug use)
Running Time: 1:35
Release Date: 9/11/15 (limited); 9/18/15 (wider)
Review by Mark Dujsik | September 17, 2015
A romantic would say that Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) are right for each other, but only a hopeless romantic would say that these two characters are right for each other upon their first or second meeting. Sleeping with Other People, a romantic comedy of sorts about two wounded people, is smart enough to realize that the hopeless romantic is dead wrong.
When Jake and Lainey first meet, they are in college. He's a loner with apparently low social skills. She's pining after a teacher's assistant who is playing her for a fool. They're both virgins, and as they talk into the night about their lives and their expectations for sex, a funny thing happens: They realize they kind of like each other. Maybe that attraction isn't enough for him to get over his cynicism or for her to drop her feelings for the other guy, but it is enough for them to get past whatever has held them back from having sex until now. They have sex, and that seems to be the end of it.
More than a decade later, both are living in New York City. Jake is still cynical, although he has well gotten past his sexual timidity. When we first see him, he's chasing after a woman who has learned that he had sex with her best friend. He explains that their relationship was never an exclusive one, that only an unintelligent person would expect it to be, and that only a crazy person would be upset that the guy with whom she has been fooling around would have sex with a particular person. Jake tries to turn those observations into compliments, and that's when she pushes him in front of a speeding taxi. Obviously, his plan did not work out the way he intended.
Lainey is still pining for the guy from college. He's Matthew (Adam Scott). Now a gynecologist, he's also married, although that relationship, we gather, has been a rocky one. Lainey and Matthew have been carrying on an affair for who knows how long, but now he wants to end it. That doesn't stop him from having sex with her when she comes to his office, though. He's still playing her for a fool, and she is more than happy to let him if it means that there might be a chance that they could be together. Even though her best friend Kara (Natasha Lyonne) thinks she should have sex with a bunch of guys to forget Matthew, Lainey decides she will remain celibate until she gets over him.
Jake and Lainey are not particularly stable people, and it's kind of refreshing that writer/director Leslye Headland acknowledges that they aren't ready for the kind of stable relationship we might expect them to attempt. Instead, after bumping into each other at a sex addicts meeting, Jake and Lainey decide they will just be friends. They come up with a safe word in case any sexual tension arises, and if it does, they will just part ways for the time being. They'll encourage each other to work out their issues: Jake will go on actual dates with women, and Lainey will learn to stop relying on Matthew.
Their relationship is sweet and funny, as people mistake them for a married couple (despite their constant talk about sexual or romantic relationships with other people) and each of them supports the other in his/her pursuit of normalcy. There's some pressure on Headland's part toward pushing them together, but many of the moments when we expect that something about this friendship is going to turn into something else become opportunities for them to talk about the obvious. They're attracted to each other, yes (It doesn't help when Lainey tries on lingerie in front of him or when Jake teaches her how to masturbate), but neither wants to ruin the friendship they do have.
The depth of that friendship kind of sneaks up on us. It appears like fun and games (especially with that safe word—a phrase, really, about a certain male appendage stuck in a mousetrap) for a while, but then there's a scene, after Lainey has been accepted to medical school in Michigan, that changes the tone of this relationship entirely and, again, not in the way we might expect. There's a blunt honesty to Jake's admission that he wants her to stay in New York, that he knows he doesn't have the right to ask that of her, and that he's really going to miss his best friend. Sudeikis and Brie have a natural, platonic connection here, and both performances provide a real sense of these characters progressing toward stability, despite a few hiccups.
We're dodging the obvious, though. I said at the start that the movie is a "romantic comedy of sorts," and it's the "of sorts" part of it that's far more enjoyable and fulfilling. There are certain criteria that must be met in a movie like this, especially near the end, and that's when Headland ups the pressure on these two—making sure there are external factors keeping them apart. Sleeping with Other People may take a long and winding road to get to its destination, but the destination is as conventional as we expect and fear it will be.
Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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