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Sleeping with Other People review: raunchy but forgettable rom-com

December 31, 2015

Film + EntertainmentReview | by Dominic Preston

Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie in Sleeping with Other People
Why wouldn’t someone have high hopes for a comedy that features an alumnus of Saturday Night Live? Since the sketch show started in 1975, it has generated such talent as Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler and more recently, Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler, Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the stars of that little known film Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph. Sleeping with Other People is the latest star vehicle for SNL alum Jason Sudeikis, who has mostly limited himself to crude comedy since 2011’s Horrible Bosses, seemingly trying to distance himself from anything even faintly intelligent. Perhaps he should have also lent his writing talents to Sleeping with Other People, just as Wiig did to her Oscar nominated smash. The ingredients are here (somewhere?) but unfortunately it just doesn’t manage to raise any more than a few small chuckles, never mind LOLzer moments.

Sudeikis is Jake, the promiscuous type with commitment issues. He crosses paths with Lainey (the likeable Alison Brie) with whom he lost his virginity twelve years previous. Lainey is having a very painful ‘relationship’ with married Matthew (Adam Scott) and it isn’t until the newfound friendship with Jake starts to unconventionally blossom that she begins to take stock of her life.

One of the problems with Sleeping with Other People is how obvious its attempts at originality are. Less a rom-com, more it’s-entirely-about-sex-com. It has faint similarities to the Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis booty call hit Friends with Benefits, though this just doesn’t feel quite as funny and likeable. Writer and director Leslye Headland (Bachelorette) has managed to approach her second feature film with a rather lopsided view on not only men and women generally, but their relationships. So they can’t ever just be friends? Come on now. A scene in which Sudeikis shows a shy and dubious but not particularly innocent Brie how to masturbate, (because she never has…) is, whilst quite raunchy, completely offensive and presumptuous. Why must the superiority lie with the man? Sexism is rife here.

Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie in Sleeping with Other People

Irony would work well in Sleeping with Other People. Whilst there are some funny moments, the general tone is not dry enough, the script not nearly as tight as it should be. A cracking moment – more visual than anything else – sees the two messed up love muffins go to a kid’s birthday party high on ecstasy. The resulting dance routine by Brie is a rare highlight for the film.

There’s a brilliant soundtrack featuring artists such as David Bowie and The Echo Friendly, giving the film a mellow yet edgy feel. Sudeikis and Brie perform as best they can, the former making the most of his great sad eyes, reminiscent of Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. They’re an easy pairing but the chemistry is not always quite there. Character development is thin, especially with Brie’s Lainey, who’s delivered well but written badly.

It’s frustrating that Headland has given strength to some female characters. Amanda Peet’s Paula shows remarkable maturity when faced with a less than ideal situation and Andrea Savage’s Naomi is hilarious. The relationship between her and husband Xander (Jason Mantzoukas) is both shocking and delightful.

There are some real glimpses at what could have been an absolute gem of a film but a generally weak script and two dimensional characters make this easily forgettable.

Words by Samuel Sims