“It’s the 21st century. We know that’s not true.”
There once was a time when good romantic comedies were a thing to be expected and not unusual. They’ve come to lose their romance, sense of humor, as well as their individuality. Few, if any, really leap out with memorable quotes or characters. Sleeping with Other People does though, specifically because it does all of the things that Romcoms must. It gives us likable lovers. The bountiful humor can be laugh out loud funny. Most importantly, and refreshingly, it borrows from the best while having the awareness to put its own signature in the bottom right hand corner. It tries to be too perverse, takes unnecessary tangents, and lacks a suitable climax for such a sexually driven film, but Sleeping with Other People still manages to leave a mark because of the primitive nature of these people in this story. You might not care about them, and yet they draw you in, because sometimes things are just too damn interesting to look away from.
We first meet Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) in college, two virgins stumbling into each other and henceforth giving themselves to their one night stand counterpart. Sleeping together sets off a kind of chain reaction in both of their lifestyles. Lainey becomes addicted to love, incredulously looking for it in all of the wrong places. And Jake turns into a womanizer, lusting after and bedding countless women to fill his little vacant heart. Sleeping with Other People takes place in New York, and as a repercussion, fate is as much a trait of the movie as it is of the city we so often see on film. They run into one another 12 years later at a “love addiction” meeting, and since they are still so clearly enamored with the other, strike up a tell-all relationship. Jake and Lainey are very thinly written characters with little to no shades, yet Sudeikis and Brie have enough chemistry to spark a match. It’s no blazing romance for sure, but at least they’re entertaining. You’re better off spending a long night out with either self-described and prescribed mess than bringing them home to meet the folks.
A lot of this feels like a Judd Apatow movie thankfully cut short by about twenty minutes. It’s crude, revealing, and indispensably true to its own sense of humanity, all hallmarks of the maestro’s oeuvre. Leslye Headland doesn’t have a connection to Apatow, and still the relatively new writer/director shares similar sensibilities. The leads limit themselves, the supporting cast gets to improv (impressively done by Jason Mantzoukas and Andrea Savage), and dramatic weight is pinned down by the light-hearted angle of the story. Sleeping with Other People is best when Jake and Lainey get to interact, and like them, becomes a little too wayward for its own good when they decidedly part ways. We’re not interested by the pawns they choose to surround themselves with because they are the king and the queen in their own right, battling love and longing and favor to be the better person. It’s a journey, and one that allows these two to dictate their own stories rather than be defined by shorthanded situations.
Now, not everything about Headland’s movie succeeds, especially its binary and by the numbers side characters. And despite the narrow-mindedness of the leads, she writes them dialogue that somehow manages to be funny and insightful without Jake or Lainey ever really coming full circle. Her ear for word is astute even if her eye isn’t. The film doesn’t exist without Sudeikis and Brie though, and the two show the type of chemistry most romantic comedies can only dream of. Sudeikis brings his quick-witted comedic chops with a surprising sense of emotion, and Brie shocks with her ability to seduce and evoke disruptively interpersonal relations. Some things and some people simply take time to come around and play from the dealer’s side of the table. That’s a fact of life. Sleeping with Other People may be intrinsically flawed, but it is reality glimpsed through dramatic hyperbole, and one of the year’s best in the genre.
“I appreciate your anger.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5