Friday 8 January 2016

Review: Sleeping With Other People is a thoroughly enjoyable rom-com... if you can forgive its lack of originality

Sleeping With Other People
Director: Leslye Headland
Starring: Alison Brie, Jason Sudeikis, Adam Scott
Running time: 101 mins

Alison Brie's lovably uptight Annie Edison was often the best thing about Community, the US sitcom that ended last year after six sporadically brilliant seasons. It was clear Brie was one hell of a comic actress and set to be the show's break-out star, but I feared for her post-Greendale High career when she started popping up in offensive dreck like Get Hard. Thankfully, she's on far firmer ground here, in a brash but sweet-natured romantic comedy that might not be the most original film you'll see this year but is enjoyable nonetheless.

We first see Brie and Jason Sudeikis - aka Lainey and Jake - losing their virginity to each other while at college, before the story fast-forwards a decade to present-day New York. Neither is in a good place relationship-wise - Sudeikis because he's a shallow philanderer, Brie because she's been carrying on an affair with a manipulative old flame (Adam Scott) behind her current boyfriend's back. The pair bump into each other for the first time in years at a meeting for sex addicts and become friends while agreeing to avoid any hanky-panky. Of course, they soon fall for each other but, with Lainey about to relocate to Michigan to attend medical school, the big question becomes what - if anything - are they going to do about the fact they're head over heels in love?

It would be easy to dismiss writer/director Leslye Headland's film as When Harry Met Sally: The Next Generation and you'd certainly be well within your rights to do so. The premise of the Rob Reiner/Nora Ephron 1989 classic - "Can a man and a woman be friends, without sex getting in the way?" - is pretty much Sleeping With Other People's too. But give it a chance and the sharp writing, as well as the leads' undoubted chemistry, might just persuade you to put aside your growing fury at Hollywood's lack of fresh ideas, if only for a little while.

Sudeikis and his 'overgrown frat boy' turns in movies like Horrible Bosses and We're The Millers have never found much favour with me but he's very likable here - his irksomely superficial character growing more complex and sympathetic before your eyes as he realises what he feels for Lainey is a million miles removed from his usual procession of one-night stands and short-lived dalliances. Scott plays against type as a genuine scumbag and he takes to it with relish, while there's also terrific work from Jordan Carlos and Margarita Levieva as Jake's long-suffering married friends (in notably similar roles to those occupied by Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby in When Harry Met Sally, naturally).

But this is Brie's movie and, if there's any justice, one which will lead to much bigger and better roles in dramas as well as comedies. There's many a moment in Sleeping With Other People that prove she has the acting chops for both.  

Headland's script is a treat for the most part; zingers flying everywhere, some really strong character work and the last 20 minutes or so are pure rom-com perfection. The writer/director only really gets it wrong once, in the scene where Sudeikis shows Brie how to pleasure herself, using an empty juice jar as a prop. It seems like a contrived and fairly cynical attempt at creating a 'water-cooler moment' - something to get audiences talking in the same way they did about Meg Ryan's 'fake orgasm' nearly 30 years ago. It totally lacks that scene's charm, though, coming off instead as clumsy, crude and not a little creepy. 

Rating: WW½

Sleeping With Other People is in cinemas and on VOD now

WWWW - Wonderful
WWW - Worthy
WW - Watchable
W - Woeful

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