Sleeping with Other People  tells the story of New Yorkers Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie), who reconnect at a sex addicts anonymous meeting over a decade after they lost their virginities together in a one night stand while they were both students at Columbia. Their friendship rekindles and grows in ways neither of their college selves could have predicted, helping each other overcome their compulsions along the way.
A classic Manhattan, with a little twist. In her second feature film, screenwriter and director Leslye Headland mixes heavy pours of Rob Reiner and Judd Apatow into a cocktail of a film that is probably a smidge less her own than either of these two influences’. Although it’s been a while since we have had a good rendition of the When Harry Met Sally storyline, the exploration of male-female friendship here is content not to reinvent the wheel, but rather to merely turbocharge the engine by adding a bit of sexual compulsion to the cylinders that fire as the plot chugs along during the film’s nimble 90 minute running time. A healthy dose of raunchiness is also tossed into the mix, which generally works and keeps things funny and frequently laugh-out-loud even as the movie leans towards rom-com hum-drummery at times. While the exact nature and severity of each character’s sex addiction is never explored quite deeply enough, the film clearly has something to say about this kind of addiction and its effect on relationships. For the most part, the movie works on this level.
Live and let dialogue. As with any movie with Harry met Sally aspirations, this movie absolutely hinges on its dialogue. For the most part, it’s fast and quippy and comes across as smart, funny, and engaging, but at times it feels a bit forced and unnatural. During the film’s opening virginity-loss scene, the slightly dorky-looking collegiate Jake spits out witty one-liners that don’t feel the slightest bit like something a virgin in the presence of a looker like Allison Brie would ever say in real life. What’s more, the seductively clad Lainey plays up her sexiness to a degree that is a bit beyond belief. Thankfully, the delivery of the script becomes much more natural after the jump to modern times, which leads me to believe the opening scene was more a victim of poor writing and directing than acting.
When Sudeikis met Brie. Speaking of acting, Sudeikis and Brie, who have fairly limited experience in leading roles, have terrific chemistry here and absolutely nail their parts. Sudeikis delivers a couple belly-achingly funny scenes, and while this performance isn’t going to do for him what Good Will Huntingdid for Robin Williams, his portrayal of Jake’s struggle to settle for one woman demonstrates a penchant for drama that will hopefully shine in future roles. Brie, after playing delightful small screen characters in Community and Mad Men, channels much of that same delight here. Like Sudeikis, she should be well on track for more leading roles.
Fast, funny, at times thematically serious but decidedly non-revolutionary as a whole, Sleeping with Other People feels like a remodeling of your favorite restaurant. The surroundings look just a tad newer, the menu only a slight bit different, but the chef has decided to experiment a little with the daily specials – mostly with great success.