One thing that drives me nuts more than just about anything is a movie that doesn’t follow through with the trajectory it’s set for itself. Now, granted, sometimes studios get involved and say you need to have X or Y because that’s what all movies in that particular genre have to have, but when a movie heads somewhere surprising and then can’t stick the landing, it’s a shame of shames.
Unfortunately, this is the case with the new raunchy romantic comedy, Sleeping with Other People, a movie that could have been so much more than that.
Written and directed by Leslye Headland, the filmmaker behind 2012’s Bachelorette, Sleeping with Other People continues down that same vein of depicting people who are emotionally wrecked by sex and love, but who attempt to pull it together. This movie was shot in New York and is very much one of those “New York is a Character” movies. It features a cast of comedic heavyweights getting to do something not entirely the same as they’ve always done, which is very refreshing. Until the ending, that is.
The film stars Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie as people with certain sexual hang-ups. The prologue takes place in 2002 when both of them are in college. Brie’s character, Lainey, is pounding on the dorm room door of some guy, causing a scene, and is nearly thrown out until Sudeikis’ Jake, a neighbor, comes out and vouches for her. After learning that Lainey is obsessed with that guy, whom Jake believes is the very epitome of boring dullness, they get closer and drink and smoke until eventually, they reveal that they’re both virgins and sleep together, seemingly never to see each other again.
In present day, Jake is a habitual womanizer who refuses to take any responsibility for his actions, sabotaging anything approaching a healthy relationship through sex. He and his business partner, the married-with-kids Jason Mantzoukas, are about to sell their startup to Amanda Peet’s company for a whole lot of money. Jake hitting on her is a constant theme of the movie. Elsewhere, Lainey reveals to her fiance (Adam Brody) that she’s been cheating on him, 16 times, with the same guy. That guy turns out to be the same guy she was obsessed with in college, now a skeevy, mustachioed gynecologist played by Adam Scott, who is married and has a kid on the way but consistently sleeps with Lainey to assert power or something. It’s really sick.
Lainey and Jake meet at a sex addiction meeting and reminisce and ultimately go out one time only to decide that being platonic friends is the best thing for them. Obviously there’s an attraction, but they’ve decided to just be best friends. And if the movie had decided to stick to its guns, it might have been something special.
The issue of whether or not men and women can be friends has been broached in films for decades, and just because a film adds a lot of explicit dialogue, highly flawed lead characters, and many, many shots of a barely-clothed Alison Brie does not change the fact that we’ve seen all of this before.
There came a point in the movie where I thought to myself, “wow, the movie’s actually going to do this? I’m impressed!” and it seemed like it was going to do something so few of these types of movies have done. But then it didn’t, the movie kept going, and we got a pretty ridiculous third act where everything you expect to happen does, and just because it ruins the relative stability and happiness of several characters doesn’t mean that it’s in any way edgy or postmodern to end the exact way every movie ends.
And that’s a shame, because I think the acting is all pretty fabulous, especially from the two leads and from Mantzoukas and Andrea Savage as his wife. I wanted to really like this movie, but the laughs largely weren’t there and the ultimate spiral of the movie attempted to rely on “shocking” dialogue and situations rather than actually pushing the envelope.
2.5 out of 5 disappointed burritos
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!