Another raunchy New York set romantic comedy about two dysfunctional people who eventually find love, “Sleeping with Other People” excels due to Leslye Headland’s (who also directed the movie) punchy, tremendously funny script and the breezy repartee between its two stars.
After losing their virginities to each other (to get it over with) while in college, Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) evolve into adults incapable of committing to monogamous relationships. Jake is a womanizer, and Lainey’s a serial cheater. To both, sex is empty and mostly meaningless. Yet, through a chance encounter at a sex addiction meeting, Jake and Lainey reconnect and form a platonic relationship.
In terms of structure and plot, “Sleeping with Other People” doesn’t reinvent the romantic comedy; things mostly go the way you’d expect them to go. The best friends (played by Jordan Carlos and Natasha Lyone) garner some laughs, but they remain largely one-dimensional and in the background.
Where the movie comes to life is in the energetic tête-à-têtes between Lainey and Jake, which have the rhythm and speed of a Howard Hawkes comedy and the vulgar, explicit sensibility of a Judd Apatow picture. In no time, the two become confidants, comfortable enough to talk openly about past and present sexual encounters or simply talk shop about relationship and sexual politics.
The discussions function as a kind of therapy, and pretty soon, their relationship becomes the only stable thing in their lives. They even come to resemble a couple, minus the sex. These scenes crackle with honesty and razor-sharp dialogue full of colorful metaphors and similes.
Both actors deliver top-notch work. Sudeikis’ performance combines the typical cocky womanizer with the nice, supportive guy friend. Jake is attractive but in a non-supermodel way. What he does have is confidence, the ability to maintain a jokey, charming demeanor. But beneath this cocky blunt exterior is a man who’s aware of his unfulfilling womanizing ways and wants to get better. And in his interactions with Lainey, he displays genuine compassion, listening to her problems and giving her advice, along with his jesting remarks.
Brie is equally splendid, matching Sudeikis at every turn in the repartee department. Lainey is sweet and well-mannered, but she also hides an underlying sense of shame and vulnerability. This is seen most clearly in her scenes with Matthew (an odd, deadpan Adam Scott), the bland, timid man she was having an affair with. Headland shoots these sequences coldly and straight-faced, mirroring Matthew’s treatment of her. While they don’t entirely mesh with the film’s comedic tone, these scenes are still touching and help deepen the character.
“Sleeping with Other People” loses some momentum during the homestretch. The last 10 minutes feel rushed and muddled in an attempt to tie things up neatly.
Additionally, Amanda Peet’s role as a potential love interest for Jake isn’t fleshed out nearly enough, making her into a trite, last-minute obstacle to delay the film’s inevitable rom-com conclusion. Nevertheless, Headland’s picture is incredibly charming and contains some of the funniest, sharpest dialogue of any comedy this year.
(Rated R for strong sexual content; language, including sexual references; and some drug use.)