From When Harry Met Sally to Friends With Benefits, we’ve seen numerous romantic comedies about people that become friends, have sex, and enter a relationship. Sleeping With Other People switches things up a little bit, though. Our leads actually have a one-night stand, meet again years later, and enter a friendship that may become something more. Since they get the sex over with upfront, you’re not entirely sure where the movie will go. Even if the film doesn’t end up being as bold or original as it could’ve been, Sleeping With Other People is still one of the better romances of the year.
Alison Brie is Lainey and Jason Sudeikis is Jake. After losing their virginities to each other in college, they both go their separate ways and have a series of catastrophic relationships. Lainey is obsessed with a married man while Jake doesn’t know the meaning of monogamy. Subsequent to crossing paths over twelve years after doing the deed, Lainey and Jake become best friends. Since they spend so much time together, however, everyone assumes they’re either in a relationship or should be in a relationship. As they grow closer, Lainey and Jake begin to ask the age-old question: can men and women just be friends?
Brie and Sudeikis are simply marvelously in these roles. As individuals, both are funny and relatable. As a pair, they play off each other to perfection and totally light up the screen with their chemistry. You just want to eat both of them up. They’re the reason Sleeping With Other People works. Hell, they’re so flawless together that the two could make almost any romantic comedy work. Of course it does help that our leads are given a witty script to work with from writer/director Leslye Headland.
The screenplay is full of clever dialog and strong moments of brutal honesty, but there are several misgivings that prevent Sleep With Other People from ever being great. For starters, it’s not a laugh per minute comedy. Granted, maybe that’s not exactly what Headland was going for. You get the idea she’s trying to make the audience think more than she’s trying to make them constantly laugh. However, given the comedic chops of the leads and the supporting cast, which includes Jason Mantzoukas, Amanda Peet, and Adam Scott, this could’ve been right up there with Trainwreck if only it had more jokes.
What really holds Sleeping With Other People back, though, is its final destination. Without giving too much away, there’s a certain point towards the end where credits should’ve started rolling. Instead, the film lasts another ten minutes and takes a safer route. Sleeping With Other People sets us up to think it’s going to challenge romantic comedy norms, but ultimately chickens out.
In all fairness, the ending Headland goes with isn’t awful or even bad. If anything, it is a nice, heartfelt conclusion and a lot of audience members will be satisfied with where our lovers end up. Still, would a film like Annie Hall have left as much of an impact if it had wrapped things up with a fairytale ending? Probably not.