Men and women can be friends. But attractive men and women can’t be.
Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) haven’t seen each other for over 12 years, but they mean a whole lot to one another. Meaning, that, well, they both took each other’s virginity’s and never really talked about it ever since. However, many of these years later, they get back into contact with one another somehow and remember just how great of friends they truly were. They talk to one another about basically anything, have the greatest of times together, and yet, they still don’t see the reason in getting together in a strictly sexual, almost romantic way. For one, they know each of their own personal lives happen to be a bit of a mess. He’s currently playing the field, but getting a tad bit more involved with his strict boss (Amanda Peet), whereas she is having all sorts of hot, sordid sex with a married man (Adam Scott). Both know that they’d probably be great for one another, but when you’re having this much fun together and there’s nothing serious going on, then why ruin it all? After all, romance is so overrated after all, right?
It’s hard to do a really good rom-com in today’s day and age in which even though it follows through on the same old conventions and tropes of that never ending genre, there’s still enough interesting material brought to the table that it almost doesn’t even matter. The ways certain movies do get past the rom-com genre and do something neat, can obviously vary, but where the actual enjoyment of the said movies is that it not only feels funny and romantic, but also feels at least somewhat genuine. You can have all the meet-cutes, awkward exchanges, falling-in-love montages, and random conflicts to tear them apart that you want – as long as your romance feels somewhat believable, then you’re fine.
And that’s exactly what is the case with Sleeping with Other People.
While it isn’t necessarily the kind of rom-com that sets out to light the world on fire and make a comment on the actual rom-com set-up itself, it still does something good in that it allows for us to see the two people falling in love, further beyond their archetypal writing. While you may read that both characters are “sex-addicted” and have “commitment phobia”, writer/director Leslye Headland sees them more as troubled and beaten-down human beings who, yes, clearly make stupid decisions in their lives, but are still capable of giving love, as well as feeling it, too. At the same time, the whole idea of “friends with benefits” is another rom-com trope that’s been nearly done to death by now, but Headland shows that, in some cases, this most definitely can happen – whereas in other cases, it can’t.
Most of all though, Headland gives these characters personalities and likable traits that make them more than just types. Alison Brie’s Lainey, for instance, feels especially raw and hurt, even though she has plenty of sex and seems to go out with many good-looking people. What Headland shows us about Lainey is that it doesn’t really matter that she’s doing all of this stuff, as much as it matters that she doesn’t feel anything about them, or simply put, needs them in her life. She doesn’t know why she feels the way she does, or does the things that she does – all that she knows is that she can’t help herself and it’s a bit sad to watch.
Of course, Brie livens her character up a lot and shows that there’s more fun and charm to her sad-sack of a character, but it’s this extra attention to character detail that makes the movie a whole lot more compelling.
Same goes for Jason Sudeikis’ Jake, who very much feels like a typical character Sudeikis would play, but slowly but surely, starts to unravel and show more shades to his character. While he may seem like the typical womanizer who goes from woman to woman, with absolute reckless abandon, the movie shows that maybe there’s more to him than just all of that sly stuff, and maybe he does want something more meaningful and love-like in his life. He may not realize it, but we certainly do and it’s what keeps him interesting practically all throughout.
It also goes without saying that both Sudeikis and Brie have great chemistry together and it feels like they’re not just best friends, but the perfect kind of couple. We see them go through all of the motions of being friends, then going to becoming best friends, and then, predictably, getting to that awkward spot in their relationship where they don’t know whether or not they really want to give each other a try, or just take the safe route and stay as friends. For anyone who has ever encountered this sort of situation, it goes without saying that Sleeping with Other People feels almost too honest and real, but it still works.
But if there is anything to say about Sleeping with Other People is that I feel like it’s more “entertaining”, and less actually “funny”.
Of course, this may not sound like me saying much of anything at all, but as the movie progressed, I found myself more interested in what it was trying to do and where it was trying to go, rather than actually laughing hysterically at the jokes it had to say or do. Most of that seems to be due to the fact that the movie relies a tad too much on Sudeikis’ own brand of humor, and not on the actual jokes that are written themselves, but it’s still not a terribly bad thing. I just feel that if you’re movie is as reliant on having humor as Sleeping with Other People is, it would be smart to actually have some of that humor land and make a mark, rather than just being, at best, chuckle-worthy and leaving it at that.
Then again, I’m just nit-picking.
Consensus: Anchored by two strong, incredibly charming leads, Sleeping with Other People may not shake the rom-com world up, but it still shows the world what you can do with a familiar premise, and add a little heart and humanity.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire