VOD film review: Sleeping with Other People
Matthew Turner | On 05, Jan 2016
Director: Leslye Headland
Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Jason Mantzoukas, Amanda Peet,Natasha Lyonne, Adam Brody
Watch Sleeping with Other People online in the UK: TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
On paper, this Jason Sudeikis / Alison Brie rom-com seems like an extremely attractive prospect: it has likeable leads with proven comic talent, it’s from the writer-director of the under-appreciated Bachelorette (which has deservedly become something of a cult hit), and it has a promising premise, essentially presenting itself as a raunchier version of When Harry Met Sally. Unfortunately, while the cast ensure that it remains watchable, it fails to deliver either romance or comedy.
The film opens, somewhat unconvincingly, with Sudeikis (40) and Brie (33) playing university students, where Brie’s Lainey and Sudeikis’ Jake lose their virginity to each other, after he helps her out of an embarrassing situation. Fast forward to the present day, where Jake is a womanising commitment-phobe and Lainey has just dumped her current boyfriend (Brody), because she’s been carrying on with a married doctor (Scott), who was her college crush.
After a chance meeting at a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting, Jake and Lainey decide to become platonic best friends, despite their obvious attraction to each other, reasoning that they are both too messed up to make a proper relationship work. Instead, they spend the majority of the film opening up to each other about their disastrous love-lives, with both of them seemingly unaware that getting together might actually be the answer to all their problems.
Sudeikis is a very funny actor, but he’s at his funniest when playing obnoxious, whether it’s snarky comments or shocking crudity at inappropriate moments. Consequently, he’s less than convincing when it comes to displaying actual emotion, so while there’s a modicum of physical chemistry between him and Brie, the heartfelt stuff fails to convince.
By contrast, Brie is adept at both comedy and drama, so she hits all the right buttons, to the point where you wish the film was focussed on her character rather than the pair of them – Lainey’s struggle to free herself from her toxic affair with Scott’s character is infinitely more interesting than Jake failing to commit to a string of women.
On the plus side, the film has a superb supporting cast that includes Jason Mantzoukas and Natasha Lyonne in the obligatory Wise-cracking Best Friend roles and Amanda Peet as the time-honoured Other Love Interest Destined To Lose Out To The Female Lead, who, unfortunately for the film, has much hotter chemistry with Sudeikis than Brie does.
The main problem is that not a word of it rings true – for one thing, we’re asked to believe that neither Lainey nor Jake have ever looked each other up on Facebook, despite losing their virginity to each other (the script attempts to get a laugh with a Facebook line, so that’s a legitimate complaint). Similarly, the film’s use of cod psychology to explain why the characters are so messed up is both trite and embarrassing.
On top of that, Headland’s direction frequently fumbles the supposed comic set-pieces – one scene where a high-on-drugs Lainey teaches kids to dance at a children’s party could have been hilarious, but falls painfully flat, while Jake man-splaining female masturbation to Lainey, after she confesses she’s never given herself an orgasm, is deeply misguided and almost insultingly patronising, even more so for being apparently played straight. (If it was meant to be played for laughs, nobody told the actors.)
Ultimately, this fails to find the right tone and ends up stranded somewhere between unfunny, ill-advised raunch and traditional romcom without ever paying off either side in satisfactory fashion.