Sleeping with Other PeopleCultureCinemaMovie reviews
Writer/director Leslye Headland made waves with her debut, Bachelorette, and returns with a romantic comedy full of surprises in Sleeping with Other People. Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis) meet by chance at university and end up losing their virginity to each other. Serendipity brings them together again, when they bump into each other at a sex addicts meeting. They begin to build a platonic friendship that allows them to reach levels of intimacy and honesty that they’ve never experienced without spoiling it with sex. Since their initial encounter, Jake has become a charming but self-sabotaging womanizer who can’t commit, whereas Lainey has been deeply wounded by an abusive relationship with her gynaecologist, Matthew (Adam Scott), and is struggling to sever the ties.
The romantic comedy genre relies on an intricate formula that doesn’t leave too much room for tinkering, but Headland manages to expertly tick the boxes (excellent soundtrack, stellar supporting cast for comic relief and a narrative that focuses on both characters equally) while adding her own personal innovations. Their friendship allows them to enter a safe zone, in which they can talk openly about sex and relationships, whilst their witty and insightful repartee on gender, sexual pleasure and self-esteem is the raw, emotional core of the film. The caustic chemistry between Sudeikis and Brie carries the film and is genuinely poignant; Brie has proven her versatility in Mad Men, but Sudeikis’ performance is uncharacteristically nuanced and vulnerable. Jake’s issues seem to be more self-inflicted, but within his ostensible braggadocio hides a man-child afraid of being hurt.
The film certainly owes credit to its predecessor, When Harry Met Sally, but the main influence here is definitely Judd Apatow. In one scene Jake teaches Lainey how to achieve an orgasm by masturbating and in another they enjoy MDMA without moralising it. This mixture of emotional honesty and sexual frankness sets Sleeping with Other People apart from its peers. However, like many of Apatow’s films, the edgy humour hides more conservative values that sprout in the third act, rendering the ending incongruous and unconvincing by neatly wrapping everything in a bow. Despite succumbing to some of the outdated pitfalls of the genre, Sleeping with Other People deftly juggles charm, antic humour and emotional grit to deliver an almost honest romantic comedy for the millennial age.
Watch Sleeping with Other People in Cinemas and On Demand on 1st January.
Watch the trailer for Sleeping with Other People here: