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Sleeping With Other People

Paramount // R // January 5, 2016
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted January 22, 2016 | E-mail the Author
As the 21st century marches on, everything old is new again: although there will always be the truly new and ambitious, the more popular angle is to take something traditional and even cliche -- such as the romantic comedy -- and find a new twist on it that will reinvigorate a tried-and-true format. The easiest angle for the rom-com is to simply bring the nature of relationships in line with current-day conflicts and frustrations, particularly in terms of frank discussions about sexual hang-ups, struggles, and satisfaction.

Sleeping With Other People stars Alison Brie as Lainey -- who rejects her real name "Elaine" in order to cut-off irritating Graduate impressions -- and Jason Sudeikis as Jake, who meet at college when Lainey gets the cold shoulder from her boyfriend Matt Sovechik, and Jake steps in to claim her as a guest to prevent her from being booted by an R.A. Lainey's plan was to lose her virginity ot Matt that evening, but instead she and Jake lose theirs together, then go their separate ways until they're reunited over 15 years later at a sex addicts meeting. Jake is now a serial womanizer who cheats to get himself out of relationships, and Lainey is still with Matt (Adam Scott) the "other woman" to Matt's wife (Katherine Waterston), who he refuses to leave. Recognizing their mutual struggle to have a normal, committed relationship, they become friends.

Sleeping is obviously indebted to When Harry Met Sally, so much so that when Jake insists the women he sleeps with always orgasm, one almost expects Lainey to explain that women fake it. They have late-night conversations illustrated in split-screen, they chat openly about their respective flings, and Lainey's friend Kara (Natasha Lyonne, essentially still playing her American Pie character) even tells her that "men and women can't be friends." In principle, the similarities could be frustrating, but writer/director Leslye Headland not only employs these elements with an obvious fondness for the film, but also provides both characters with an uninhibited, modern attitude, especially when it comes to talking about sex. In one scene, Jake teaches Lainey how to masturbate, using an empty green tea bottle as a prop to demonstrate technique on, and in another, he accompanies her while she shops for lingerie she buys to increase her sexual confidence.

Sudeikis, who has been misused as an overly smarmy goof in too many of his movies, displays just the right blend of charisma and confidence here, and Brie is similarly electric, bridging the gap between playful sexiness and the crisis of self-confidence that keeps her desperately clinging to creepy, boring Matt. Their chemistry drives the whole movie, peaking in a comic dance sequence at a party that, in an odd way, captures the kind of sexually confident freedom that both characters are striving for. They're supported by almost every key member of the supporting cast, including hilarious turns from Jason Mantzoukas and Andrea Savage as Jake's married friends Xander and Naomi (who, refreshingly, are not a negative portrait of the commitment Jake and Lainey are resisting), Amanda Peet as Jake and Xander's boss, and Scott as the perfect sexual sociopath. Billy Eichner also kills it in a brief cameo as another memeber at the sex addicts meeting.

Although it might be a stretch to call the film as a whole "surprising", it does track a fun and unexpected route through Lainey and Jake's struggles, partially by focusing on the two characters working on their own individual problems and dicussing them, and letting the audience's understanding of their chemistry with each other arrive naturally. Two big confession scenes are both played as open-ended thoughts rather than conflicts that need to be resolved, deftly removing the rom-com trope of simple communication failure from the equation and adding more complexity to their mutual problem. Unfortunately, that only makes it more frustrating when the film falls into autopilot for the last fifteen minutes, with Headland concocting an awkward and oddly unsatisfying way to bring the movie to a close, introducing ideas that the film no longer has time to explore (raised by Peet's character), and resolving other complications in ways that feel more convenient than satisfying. There's plenty of enjoyment to be had watching Jake and Lainey navigate their developing relationship, but their happily ever is somewhat unconvincing.

Yes, it's official: boxes have replaced the floating head as the go-to lazy design scheme for key art. Sleeping With Other People throws on a large picture of Lainey and Jake with the title framed inside of it to bring attention to those characters, and surrounds it with other assorted images from the film featuring the movie's other famous faces. The single-disc release comes in an eco-friendly Amaray case, and there is an insert...more on this in the extras.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen, this 2015 production looks generally crisp and clean, with bright, eye-catching colors and a reasonable amount of detail. Dark scenes have a "movie" brightness to them that keeps the disc out of crush territory and there are no noticeable compression artifacts (I'd hope not, given the disc doesn't even have any pre-show trailers to take up space). Sound is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that doesn't have to work very hard to capture the dialogue-based humor, although you do get a little ambiance in a crowded dorm, a bit of thrilling open-air emptiness when Lainey meets with Sobvechik and they have sex with his office door open, and the (bittersweet) energy of Bowie's "Modern Love." English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and French and Spanish subtitles are also included.

The Extras
Although there are no extras on the disc -- a commentary and deleted scenes would've been greatly appreciated -- Sleeping With Other People is one of an emerging trend that I do appreciate: a DVD that includes a Digital HD UltraViolet copy. The film was not made available on Blu-ray in the US, so giving away a free copy of the HD version with the DVD is at least an attempt at a compromise.

Even if the film fails to stick the landing, there's plenty of sexual chemistry and comedy in Sleeping With Other People. Fans of Sudeikis or Brie will enjoy seeing both in top form, and the supporting cast helps get the movie over its rough patches (even the ending, which is upstaged by an extended, sweet outro of Mantzoukas and Savage bantering). Recommended.

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