Sunday, October 04, 2015

Sleeping with Other People

Sleeping with Other People, written and directed by Leslye Headland, is an odd misfire of a film. It’s a romantic comedy that wants to be both edgy and traditional, and Headland’s script winds up skirting a lot more tropes of the genre than she would probably like to admit to. Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis) meet in college when Lainey’s desired hookup is missing in action. The two enjoy a night together - the first sex for both - and then don’t think about each other much until the film jumps a decade forward to present-day New York. Jake has become a womanizer who’s on the cusp of selling his company to a woman (Amanda Peet) whom he wants to bed. Lainey is a teacher still in the thrall of that missed hookup from college; he’s now an OB/GYN played by Adam Scott (admirably playing against type) who in his first scene takes a willing Lainey on his office desk,

Did I mention there’s a lot of sex? Jake and Lainey agree to become platonic friends with a large helping of sex talk on the side. A code word (“mousetrap”) is established for when the two become aroused in each other’s company, and at about this point the film’s central question becomes clear: Can men and women be friends? We’ve been here before, although Harry and Sally never talked this dirty. The script keeps setting up obstacles for Jake and Lainey to be together, including Peet’s businesswoman, a single dad (Marc Blucas) who meets Lainey at an Ectasy-laced child’s birthday party (Edgy!), and Lainey’s admission to medical school. For a moment I even thought Headland was setting up jake to be both a Manic Pixie Dream Guy and the 2015 equivalent of Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail, but she wisely turns a corner before things get that bad. The script winks at the idea that Jake and Lainey are sex addicts, but in fact they’re just bad at relationships and also at seeing what’s in front of them. Alison Brie makes something sad and human out of Lainey’s conflicts. Lainey might be the most fully realized role Brie has ever had, and she responds with a fearless performance while Sudeikis is largely trapped by the conventionality of his role. A funny supporting cast (Jason Mantzoukas, Natasha Lyonne, Andrea Savage, Katherine Waterston) helps make Sleeping with Other People watchable, but finally this film is a commuter train that’s hitting all the stops.

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