Movie Review: “Sleeping with Other People”

Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Andrea Savage, Jason Mantzoukas, Adam Scott, Amanda Peet, Natasha Lyonne
Leslye Headland

Writer/director Leslye Headland’s debut feature, “Bachelorette,” was an incredibly cruel and unfunny dark comedy filled with selfish people doing horrible things, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that her follow-up, “Sleeping with Other People,” hardly has a mean-spirited bone in its body. Granted, the characters aren’t exactly saints, but for the most part, they’re likable human beings with very real flaws that you actually care about. That’s a welcome change from the insufferable assholes that populated Headland’s first film, and it helps solidify “Sleeping with Other People” as a sweet and candid romantic comedy that ranks as one of the more enjoyable entries in the genre in quite some time.

It’s been more than a decade since Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) first met as students at Columbia University, where they lost their virginities to one another on the roof of Jake’s college dorm before seemingly vanishing from each other’s life forever. They haven’t had a healthy relationship since that night, with Jake resigned to playing the field as a perpetual bachelor and Lainey’s love life stunted by her obsession with college crush, Matthew Sobvechik (Adam Scott). But when Jake and Lainey cross paths at a sex addicts meeting in New York City, they pick up right where they left off. Though the attraction between them is palpable, they agree to keep things strictly platonic because sex has always played a part in their failed relationships. However, as they spend more time together and begin to act like a real couple, Jake and Lainey must decide whether to break things off and save themselves the heartache or risk giving romance a shot.

If “Sleeping with Other People” sounds an awful lot like a contemporary update of “When Harry Met Sally,” that’s because it takes a very similar premise (the ill-fated “let’s be friends” scenario) and adds a dash of raunchy humor to the mix. Though it’s not as smart as the Rob Reiner/Nora Ephron classic in its examination of relationships, Headland’s screenplay is packed with some funny observations about sex, love and marriage, including a hilarious scene where Jake schools Lainey on the art of female masturbation using an empty bottle of green tea. It’s not quite as memorable as Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm inside Katz’s Deli, but it’s a comparable highlight for a film that clearly owes a lot to Reiner’s 1989 rom-com.

Much like that movie, “Sleeping with Other People” hinges on the chemistry of its two leads, and Sudeikis and Brie don’t disappoint, bouncing off each other with such ease that Headland’s snappy dialogue feels like it was written specifically for them. In fact, while the supporting cast is solid (Jason Mantzoukas and Andrea Savage deserve special mention as Jake’s married friends), Sudeikis and Brie are so good together that the movie drags whenever they’re not sharing the screen. The movie also takes too long to reach its climax (no pun intended), resulting in a rushed and unconvincing ending, while the attempts to avoid the usual rom-com tropes are admirable but not entirely successful. Thankfully, “Sleeping with Other People” is such a fun, breezy affair that you don’t really notice its flaws until it’s over, which already makes it better than most films in the genre.