2016 gets underway with a new rom-com from Leslye Headland (Bachelorette) but sadly it doesn’t really bring anything fresh to the plate. Lainey (Alison Brie – Community) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis – Horrible Bosses) meet at college but soon lose track of each other. Later in life they run into each other at a sex addicts meeting and friendship (with all the underlying sexual tension the genre requires) ensues.
The thing with romantic comedies is that we know where they’re going, and therefore they need to hit us with something new, or at least emotionally manipulate us enough to engage. However, in spite of the undeniable charm of her two leads, Headland’s script is a little flat and feels a little too emotionally empty to really draw you in and care about how we get to the inevitable outcome.
As with many a rom-com, the saving grace of Sleeping with Other People is its secondary characters: Jason Mantzoukas’s Xander and his wife Naomi (Andrea Savage). Their (presumed) improv over the credits really is the highlight of the film. For fans of Mantzoukas’s podcast ‘How Did This Get Made?’ there is the added bonus of a face waterfall in the opening scenes! (If you haven’t heard this podcast you have to at least check out the Face/Off episode – priceless!)
Amanda Peet is also engaging as Jake’s boss and the object of his desires. Adam Scott, on the other hand, is in the unfortunate position of playing a truly horrible character with no redeeming features. It’s certainly not his fault that the script offers him absolutely no good points whatsoever but there comes a point where you wonder why the central female character has to get jerked around quite so much. Did she do something wrong in a past life that means she has to go through this to ‘earn’ her happiness? Where is Jake’s payoff?
As already mentioned Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis are genuinely charming, but the script is often at odds with their burgeoning relationship. In particular, the more adult moments (sex tips using a jar for example) come across more awkward than intended as the rest of the film seems to rely so heavily on the inherent sweetness of its two central characters.
Sleeping With Other People is out now