Movie Review: Good cast keep ‘Sleeping with Other People’ from being a snooze
Before “Trainwreck” smashed through theaters this summer, rom-coms were on life support, done in by an overflowing genre of formulaic, mind-numbing chick flicks. Now, along comes writer-director Leslye Headland (“Bachelorette”) to drain another vein with “Sleeping With Other People.” It’s a periodically charming date-night movie that plays like a watered-down “When Harry Met Sally.”
As in that classic, Lainey and Jake are friends and commiserators in the travails of the Manhattan dating scene who’ve made a pact not to hook up. The premise is overcooked, but the fine performances from Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie prop up the pat script to the point you ignore the flaws to enjoy the will-or-won’t-they setup. Never for a second do you doubt the outcome, but Sudeikis’ charm and comedic knack goes a long way in his portrayal of an earnest womanizer who cheats to break off relationships. Brie – Trudy from “Mad Men” – is a miscast delight as a serial cheater hung up on the quirky – and married – doctor that got away (Adam Scott). The problem with Brie is that she’s simply too wholesome to be believable as a bimbo.
We begin in 2002, when Jake and Lainey meet cute in college, lose their virginity to each other then go their separate ways. The story picks up 12 years later, when they’re amusingly reunited at a sexaholics anonymous meeting. In typical rom-com fashion, both are at a crossroads. They give a platonic friendship a go while each continues to date the wrong people. As BFFs tend to do, they compare notes, offer dating advice, sex tips and laugh a lot. All along, they’re seemingly blind to the fact the perfect match is right in front of them. We know it. Their friends (played by Jason Mantzoukas, Andrea Savage and Natasha Lyonne, all terrific in cookie-cutter support) know it too.
But there’s time to fill. So we watch Jake and Lainey do stuff together – like a couple – shopping for TVs and lingerie, going to restaurants, taking walks in Central Park, et al. It’s like they’re dating, but without the sex, remarks one character. Jake and Lainey, naturally, have their own obstacles. She can’t shake the great sex with the boring doctor (her Mr. Big, so to speak) and he’s wooing his boss (Amanda Peet). Both plot strings gear up just when you think Lainey and Jake will finally take the plunge. The sabotage gets annoying, as does the one-note treatment of male-female friendships – which never go deeper than shopping, eating and sex talk.
Even when the movie crumbles to the genre’s inevitable cliches, Sudeikis and Brie remain adorable together. And Sudeikis (“Horrible Bosses”), never more appealing, finds plenty of room for jokes and his trademark smart-ass remarks, playing the cad with a heart of gold. Writer-director Headland doesn’t drift too far from convention. She offers no real insight into the dating games millennials play, but her smart casting makes “Sleeping With Other People” more that just a one-night stand.
Dana Barbuto may be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.
SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE(R for strong sexual content, language including sexual references, and some drug use.)
Cast includes Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie.