Can two sex obsessed friends put aside their copulation preoccupation in the interest of maintaining their friendship? This is the question at the heart of Leslye Headland’s largely successful new “raunch-com” Sleeping With Other People.
Review by Katrina Conaglen at Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Leslye Headland’s 2012 film Bachelorette was an acerbic, twisted comedy centring on the hateful behaviours of Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Lizzy Caplan as they debauched themselves in the lead up to their altogether more lovely friend Rebel Wilson’s wedding. The characters were caustic, the wit as black as pitch, and consequently it was a lurid treat, not widely seen but a verified cult classic.
Headland’s follow-up, Sleeping With Other People, sees the self-confessed sluts Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Mad Men‘s Alison Brie) fighting their natural desire to sleep together in the interest of maintaining their friendship. With such a premise, you may expect it to be just as dark as Bachelorette, where actually it’s a wholly more traditional form of romcom, albeit one with a foul mouth and plenty of sex.
Our not so star-crossed lovers meet as freshmen at New York University and brusquely deflower one another. Cut to 12 years later and they haven’t seen each other since but nevertheless share a mutual passion for promiscuity and unfaithfulness.
When they re-meet cute at a sex addicts meeting, their (rather rational, for sexual compulsives) decision to commit to a chaste friendship in the interest of self-betterment results in a series of subsequent standard romcom outings: walks around Central Park, dance montages, dim sum dinners and lingerie-shopping outings (the last a by no means groaningly gratuitous and implausible excuse to whip Brie’s kit off). In one terrific sequence they attend a children’s party together tripping off their respective nuts.
Two friends quipping their way through Manhattan, fighting the urge to fall in love: We’re deep into When Harry Met Sally territory here, but knowingly so, and Sudeikis and Brie have a very easy camaraderie (though, ironically, no sexual chemistry of note) as well as sharply scripted banter to help proceedings flow.
Peripheral details sully the film somewhat: Adam Scott shows up as the married doctor Brie can’t stop shagging, and his decision to dampen his natural charm in servicing the asshole nature of his character means you can’t wait for him to leave the screen whenever he shows up.
By contrast, Amanda Peet plays the not-meant-to-be girl Sudeikis passes his time with, and their chemistry and natural rapport is so pronounced you half wish the film was re-framed as all about their romance. The excellent Natasha Lyonne is also wasted in her brief scenes as Brie’s obligatory supportive but sarky best friend.
The raunchier aspects of the film (including a very funny and sexy scene in which Sudeikis demonstrates his technique for pleasuring a woman on an empty Snapple bottle) will likely alienate those looking for a tamer more traditional romcom, while the predictability with which it hits conventional plot points might disappoint those who’ve come to the film for love of Bachelorette (it could have benefitted from studying Annie Hall’s ending).
But jokes fly thick and fast, the leads are consistently charming, Manhattan is as spectacular as ever, and love conquers all. Sleeping With Other People may want you to think its a dirty little whore of a film, but actually it has a sweet pure heart of gold.