Synopsis: From producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay comes director Leslye Headland’s raunchy new comedy. Twelve years after their one-night stand, Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) cross paths and realize that they’ve both become chronic commitment-phobes. Despite their obvious attraction, the two agree to keep their friendship strictly platonic. But as sexual tensions rise, their deal proves to be more difficult than they thought. Featuring a hilarious ensemble cast starring Amanda Peet, Natasha Lyonne, Adam Scott and Adam Brody, this smart and sexy comedy “will leave you laughing very, very hard.”
eyelights: its modern spin on an a classic tale. its repartee.
eyesores: the smugness of its male lead.
“I love you for free.”
Why can’t women and men be friends? The question was posed by Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron in 1989 and it changed my perspective on relationships. It changed my life. I was an instant fan of ‘When Harry Met Sally‘, which remains one of my all-time favourite movies.
It looks like Leslye Headland is a fan as well.
The writer-director of ‘Sleeping with Other People’ goes into familiar terrain with her 2015 picture, which she wrote when she decided to write about sex addiction: she took two promiscuous people and explored the development of their resolutely platonic friendship.
And the blossoming of a deeper love.
Frankly, the picture was more enjoyable than it has any right to be. As something that seemed vaguely familiar to me at times (ex: scenes of Jake and Lainey doing activities together, and solo, with a voice over of them writing to each other) it should suck.
But it’s actually well-conceived and it’s rather funny. This may be due to its sexually-charged nature, which leads the characters into very frank discussions about sex, and the fact that they definitely want to get it on and yet keep their hands off each other.
It’s also rather sweet, in that the pair develop deep affection for each other and become each other’s best friend. It comes to a head midway when they’re accused of behaving like a couple even though they’re not. They finally admit to it, but remain friends.
What we discover is that Jake has commitment issues: he only has sex with women he isn’t afraid to lose. He’s extremely attached to Lainey, and wants to spend as much time with her as possible before she leaves for Medical school. He refuses to spoil it with sex.
As for Lainey, she has a tendency of sleeping with unavailable people, and is in this case addicted to Matthew, who is married. Having realized that she’s addicted to sex, she’s started to attend sex addiction meetings. So her friendship with Jake is therapeutic.
Ultimately, despite its sexy title, ‘Sleeping with Other People’ is all about the dialogue: as a womanizer, Jake is a master of repartee, Lainey and Jake frequently have funny exchanges, and the pair have the requisite quirky friends commenting on the proceedings.
They also have a few truly golden lines, the kind that make romantics’ legs wobbly, like when the pair admit their love for each other, but remain platonic: “I love you for free”, they tell each other. It’s unconditional; it’s independent of who they sleep with.
Frankly, when I picked up this DVD, I thought the movie was going to be about polyamory. But it’s nothing of the kind; it really is about love, it’s just that the relationship model is unconventional. And that alone made it refreshing, even if it echoes a classic.
Because of this, scenes like when Jake shows Lainey how to masturbate by using an empty apple juice bottle (she has sex regularly, but gets bored masturbating), worked despite being the obvious equivalent to Meg Ryan’s moaning scene in ‘When Harry Met Sally’.
It also helps that the cast is fairly winsome: Jason Sudeikis is perfectly okay as the smug but witty Jake and Alison Brie is smart and sassy as Lainey; they play off of each other nicely. And I like that they’re pretty, but not so pretty that they’re unrelatable.
Look, I’m not saying that ‘Sleeping with Other People’ is the movie of the year. But, as far as romantic comedies go, it’s a pretty solid entry. Of course, it’s a genre that’s usually marred by schmaltz, contrived gags and uneven performances, so the bar is low.
Still, like its infinitely superior progenitor, it echoes my view of what male-female relationships can be: I don’t accept that heterosexual women and men can’t be buddies, hanging out and talking about everything like they’d do with their own-gendered friends.
Are our hearts so needy, our lust so powerful that we can’t get along?
So I relished seeing a half-decent picture that tried to show that it was possible. Granted, in the end Lainey and Jake do fall in love. But their efforts at developing and sustaining a friendship is what matters here; they became each other’s go to and best friend.
I really dig that.
Date of viewing: April 23, 2017