"Sleeping with Other People" is likable and then not, sweet and then frustrating, a love story that sneaks into its viewers' good graces and then bashes their hopes like a piñata. Leslye Headland, working in a less razor-edged satiric tone than her impressive writing-directing debut, 2012's "Bachelorette
," has made a film that strictlyand, at times, tediouslyadheres to the romantic-comedy formula, with one notable exception: both protagonists are sex addicts. Jason Sudeikis (2013's "We're the Millers
") and Alison Brie (2012's "The Five-Year Engagement
") play burgeoning entrepreneur Jake and kindergarten teacher Lainey, who lost their respective virginity to each other in college. By chance, they meet again twelve years later at a 12-step love addiction program and immediately hit it off. Aware that they have sabotaged every romantic relationship they've ever been in, they agree to remain just friendsa well-intentioned prospect easier said than done.
Failing miserably at the Bechdel-Wallace Test, "Sleeping with Other People" doesn't feature a single scene where two women converse with each other about anything other
than men. In fact, rarely does anyone, men included, speak about anything other than the opposite sex. A top-flight supporting castincluding Amanda Peet (2013's "The Way Way Back
") as Jake's boss and other potential love interest Paula; Natasha Lyonne (2013's "Girl Most Likely
") as Lainey's lesbian gal pal Kara, on hand for no reason other than to toss out advice just as she did in 1999's "American Pie
," and Adam Scott (2015's "Hot Tub Time Machine 2
") as Lainey's former lover, married gynecologist Mattheware used as plot devices, too often disposably shoved to the side. That leaves Jason Sudeikis and an especially winning Alison Brie to get by on their chemistry, and they would have a fair amount if Jake didn't seem so selfish and unreliable. Whereas Lainey realizes she has a problem with celibacy and commitment and genuinely tries to better herself, Jake continues to sleep around. When he realizes he loves Lainey, he wants her to drop everything to be with himnot exactly ideal since she has been accepted to law school and is planning to relocate from NYC to Michigan.
"Sleeping with Other People" is a middle-of-the-road indie piece, moments of definite inspiration interspersed with visually uninteresting camerawork and a bumpy script so occasionally misguidedas in a late scene involving a childish café brawlit makes one angry at how charming it otherwise can be. A scene where a chemically influenced Lainey teaches children a sultry dance to David Bowie's "Modern Love" is very funny, while another moment where she and Jake share a New York Harbor boat ride at dusk, the twinkling lights of Manhattan shining in the distance as "Open Season" by High Highs plays on the soundtrack, is pure magic. Alas, rooting for these two people to be together is a tall order. Jake is self-involved and untrustworthy. Lainey is still recovering from her own issues and would be better suited to focus on herself for a while. She deserves an upbeat ending, but not the happy-go-lucky one Headland has contrived. As the closing credits roll, there is the sneaking suspicion someone is about to get their heart broken.