We all know the story: boy meets girl, they decide to stay friends, and they become a couple in the end. It’s a classic tale as old as time and “Sleeping with Other People” gives it a refreshing twist. The film is written and directed by Leslye Headland, an acerbic playwright who has a Sundance hit with her film “Bachelorette.” Headland is great at taking romantic comedy clichés (walking around in parks, going shopping, awkward dinner dates, the idea that men and women can’t be friends) and turning them into sex-positive, comical, and dark, conversations.
“Sleeping with Other People” focuses on Laney (Allison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis), who met as college freshmen, lost their virginities to each other, and reunite twelve years later at a sex-addicts anonymous meeting. Neither of them are sex addicts, but they do have some relationship problems. Jake is a serial cheater because he’s afraid of ending relationships, and Laney is still obsessed with her college RA (Adam Scott) even though she has a boyfriend (Adam Brody). Together, Laney and Jake decide to be friends and help each other get through their “sluttiness,” as they call it, but they end up falling in love with each other.
While this sounds painfully formulaic, I promise it’s not. Headland is self-aware of the clichés and has her characters joke about them. But what really sets this film apart is the cast. Jake is dull and gets bored easily, and Laney tends to be neurotic and loves blaming other people for her problems, but Brie and Sudeikis bring charm to characters that could be completely unlikeable in less capable hands.
The supporting cast are just as great as the leads. Natasha Lyonne plays Laney’s detached and cynical best friend, who consistently deadpans the idea that men and women can’t be friends, but supports Laney’s plan anyway. Jake’s best friends, Xander (Jason Mantzoukas) and Naomi (Andrea Savage) show that a functioning marriage between friends is possible, and they bring some of the funniest one-liners in the film. Quite possibly the biggest surprise of the film is Adam Scott, playing a mustachioed doctor and Laney’s former RA, Matthew. Scott, who usually plays sweet characters, plays a smarmy egomaniac you want to hate.
As clever and light as “Sleeping with Other People” is, it still has the problem most recent comedies face: it’s way too long. Had they trimmed out a few minutes of the last sequence, the film would be a nearly perfect romantic comedy. While the movie is not particularly revolutionary, it more than makes up for it with realistically awkward depictions of a nascent relationship, amazing supporting characters, and genuinely funny dialogue and physical humor.
4 out of 5 stars
“Sleeping with Other People” is now playing at:
the Embarcadero, Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, and AMC Metreon 16