After loathing Leslye Headland’s first feature Bachelorette I was skeptical of the praises which I had heard in regards to her next feature, Sleeping with Other People but the moment I came out I’m glad to have given it a chance. While I’m not to deny that there are many beats that strike back to what’s already typical of the sort, there’s an effectiveness coming out from how charming and honest it is in terms of how it has been executed. Knowing that a number of romantic comedies within this day and age suffer from heavily unlikable characters or a lack of actual humor but the honesty to Sleeping with Other People proves itself to be a rather pleasant rise above the usual standards nowadays, to which I appreciate.
The story catches on beats of Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally… but in a sense is also updating on the time in which it was set and there’s more of an openness to the relationship to Jason Sudeikis’s Jake and Alison Brie’s Lainey. While the beats of familiarity are present all throughout, there’s a reason as to why Sleeping with Other People finds itself working much better than a typical entry from recent years for it collects the many good qualities that can be offered within a romantic comedy, and provides a nice celebration of why the more successful entries worked for what they are. Although Sleeping with Other People isn’t completely a meta film in this aspect, seeing as we have a film that understands why earlier entries were successful and catching onto their beats is why it works.
Leslye Headland’s screenplay is where Sleeping with Other People is at its most delightful, not only in the sense that it is clever and witty like a romantic comedy should be. Where this manages to stand out is that noticeably, it’s willing to enter a much darker territory without falling down terribly to a level of mean-spiritedness, which was one of my problems with Headland’s Bachelorette. The willingness to head into the darker aspects of a relationship comes to the benefit of Sleeping with Other People for what is soon provided on the screen not only is funny, but also genuine. It also helps that behind the camera, Headland’s direction is aiming for more without many distractions coming by.
The casting for the two leads alone works for the basic formula in what would sell a romantic comedy rather well, in which studios normally would cast two attractive leads together with one another but interestingly it’s where the performances come out in an unexpected manner. Alison Brie, normally recognizable for a nerdy yet otherwise quirky personality on Community as Annie Edison (my personal favourite character in the show) plays a character unhappy with the state of her own romance. Yet she plays the role with ease together with Jason Sudeikis, and a believable bond between the two has been formed. I already like the two of them for what personalities I can recognize out of them, but seeing them play something different from what I would normally expect of their usual character is where I was left astounded with their performances – they truly felt so real.
For all the greatness that came by within the first half, suddenly it started fading by the time the final moments came. From the second half onward, what could have been a neat spin and update on what When Harry Met Sally… was intending to approach for a new generation, suddenly the film begins rambling and loses its way. The aim had already been so perfectly established with the way it starts up, but the fact that suddenly it just felt so lost on the path which it was following ended up turning me off. It’s as if for a film that begins with such a simple goal, it tries to shove in way too much for its own good and suddenly it feels so distracted.
Sleeping with Other People is the sort of romantic comedy that I’d wish there were more of nowadays. Funny, dark, and the best part, honest, it has all the material that could easily make a great film. Add in the excellence with the chemistry forming between Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie, and the potential rises even more. It’s just that for a film that offers so much that left me in awe of its own pleasantness, it suddenly changes its goal from being simple to something rather convoluted, for it just shoves in too much that doesn’t fit in with the tone established. Knowing already that what we’re left with is enough to make something that could be great, I’m willing to come back at some point because while it lasted, it was rather pleasant.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via IFC Films.
Directed by Leslye Headland
Screenplay by Leslye Headland
Produced by Jessica Elbaum, Will Ferrell, Sidney Kimmel, Adam McKay
Starring Alison Brie, Jason Sudeikis, Adam Scott, Natasha Lyonne, Amanda Peet
Release Year: 2015
Running Time: 101 minutes