Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Leslye Headland
Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Jason Mantzoukas, Adam Scott, Natasha Lyonne, Amada Peet, Adam Brody, Katherine Waterston, Andrea Savage.
Judd Apatow has popularised the raunchy, sex-obsessed romantic comedy with his films like Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin, etc, and since then it seems as though every second romantic comedy needs to follow that template. This raunchy romantic comedy about a couple who try to establish a purely platonic relationship is a bit like the classic 1980s romcom When Harry Met Sally for the new millennium, but it only reminds us just how good that film was.
Writer/director Leslye Headland gave us the comical Bachelorette, which was based on her own play about a disastrous pre-wedding girl’s night out and females behaving badly, which, like the superb Bridesmaids before it, demonstrated that female filmmakers are just as able to do potty-mouthed dialogue as well as the males. And her new film also shares a few thematic similarities to Friends With Benefits and the recent Trainwreck.
We are first introduced to Jake (Jason Sudeikis, from We’re The Millers, Horrible Bosses, etc) and Lainey (Alison Brie, from Community, The Lego Movie, etc) when they are virginal college students. They sleep together, and then go their separate ways after their one night stand. Twelve years later they meet up again when they both attend a group therapy session for sex addicts. Their lives are an emotional trainwreck. While it is obvious from the start that they deserve to be together the film does follow that usual will they or won’t they get together formula.
Jason is a now a commitmentphobic womaniser who hasn’t really grown up, while Lainey engages in a series of one night stands while still obsessed with Matthew Sovochek (Adam Scott), a gynecologist she met while studying at Columbia. She still occasionally has illicit sex with Matt, even though he is now married and his wife is heavily pregnant.
Jake and Lainey rekindle their friendship. But it’s a chaste friendship as Jake feels that sex would get in the way and ruin that relationship. They talk about sex a lot, and the sexual tension between them is palpable. They have a code word that warns them when the talk threatens to overheat and become more physical.
There are some semi-autobiographical elements in the script, which revisits many of the familiar tropes of the romcom genre, but Headland also injects a bit more emotional substance into her exploration of the nature of a relationship in these modern, fast-paced times. While the dialogue offers up some insights into the tricky nature of sex and relationships, it is at time quite self-consciously smart rather than witty. Also Headland has worked in a couple of subplots too many that detract from the main relationship and unnecessarily pad out the material. There is one stand out sequence when Jake teaches Lainey about the art of female masturbation which provides some laugh out loud moments.
Sudeikis has great comic timing, but he also has that smarmy charm and glibness working overtime here as the womanising Jake and it takes some time to warm towards his character. Brie is also very good as the neurotic and moody Lainey. There is some great chemistry between the pair.
Headland has surrounded her leads with a solid supporting cast to flesh out the quirky peripheral characters. Amanda Peet has a small role as Jake’s feisty and tough boss who he tries to seduce. Comic Jason Mantzoukas plays Xander, Jake’s best friend and business partner, and Andrea Savage as his wife Naomi, and the pair have a wonderful dynamic going and engage in some wonderful exchanges. With a creepy moustache that looks like a caterpillar crawling across his upper lip, Scott comes across as smug and unpleasant, and it is hard to fathom Lainey’s continued attraction towards him.
Anyone who has never seen a romantic comedy before may find something fresh or enjoyable here, but mostly Sleeping With Other People is stale and unoriginal and confuses frank sex talk for real wit and insight.