Sleeping with Other People Review

(2.5 STARS)

Sleeping with Other People is Leslye Headland’s sophomore feature, and following the mixed reception of Bachelorette, a Bridesmaids-esque comedy darker than the deepest recesses of space, she seems to have taken some notes and steered toward something approaching approachability.

If consulted, I would have told Headlund to stay “out there.” Not only was Bachelorette merciless, but it signaled the arrival of a singular female comedic voice — the “anti-Nancy-Meyers” whose characters would eat the single, rich women of It’s Complicated and The Holiday for breakfast and gleefully pick at their bones for lunch because why the fuck not.

Sleeping with Other People isn’t quite as soft as those films, but somewhere up above, Kirsten Dunst and Lizzie Caplan’s Bachelorette characters are circling it. It recalls Apatow more than it does Meyers, and some of its sequences are ingenious. Others, however, are doughy and punchless — included to tug on our heartstrings and engage us emotionally. They ring almost entirely false, and as a result, so it is with the film as a whole. It’s funny and passable, but also something that doesn’t remotely live up to its potential.

We first meet Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) while they’re students at Columbia University. She’s banging down the door of her pre-med TA, Matthew (Adam Scott), before he invites her in for a chat, a drink, and eventually, some intercourse — the first time either went down that road.

More than a decade later, and we learn that these two individuals who waited so long to lose their respective virginities are now sex addicts. Jake will sleep with anyone, anywhere, any time. Lainey, on the other hand, is hung up on the aforementioned Matthew. He’s emotionally unavailable, but happy to engage with her physically in his gynecology office at her convenience.

Jake and Lainey bump into each other at a meeting for sex addicts and decide to go on a date. Their decade-old attraction bubbles up to the surface almost instantly, but each realizes what a bad idea sex would be in this particular instance. Instead, they decide to keep things platonic — uttering the code word “mousetrap” whenever one starts to feel a certain urge. Before long, Jake and Lainey are the closest of friends, and everyone else in their lives starts to wonder when they’re doing to freaking do it already.

Sleeping with Other People posits that attractive, rich, white New Yorkers talk only of sex. Jake and Lainey don’t appear to be defined by their respective sex addictions — which is to say we rarely see them engage in any sort of sexual activity — yet it’s all they ever discuss together. If a romantic comedy’s success is at least partially defined by the “will they or won’t they” questions at the core of the relationship between its leads, Sleeping with Other People is unsuccessful. There are no such questions. It’s literally all sex talk.

While the unrealistic characters bring the film down, its exaggerated scenarios at least add to the humor quotient enough to make Sleeping with Other People passable. It’s a funny movie. I was happy to watch Sudeikis and Brie take molly and commandeer a child’s birthday party. Similarly, I enjoyed Jason Matzoukas and Andrea Savage as Jake’s best friends. Adam Brody has a fantastic one-scene cameo. And Adam Scott, while uneven, bursts into the film with a hilarious lack of energy.

Headland’s handling of individual scenes still has me excited for what she’ll do next as a filmmaker. The film’s emotional climax is so satisfying and surprising that it’ll make you wish the denounment never happened. Everything in Sleeping with Other People that’s original and out of nowhere and new is aces, but too often, it’s a derivative effort from a filmmaker, cast, and crew who are capable of better.

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