Sleeping With Other People

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Okay San Diego – you had a busy weekend. The Blue Angels were at Miramar doing an air show. The wonderful San Diego Film Festival brought in amazing stars and movies to see. So, you have an excuse for not seeing Sleeping With Other People, one of the best comedies of the year. I’m warning you – see it soon, as it might not be in the theatres after this week, and that’s a shame.

This is When Harry Met Sally, if it were rated NC-17 and the script had been doctored by Judd Apatow. Kudos to writer/director Leslye Headland (About Last Night, Bachelorette).

At Columbia University in early 2000, Jake (Jason Sudeikis) meets Lainey (Alison Brie) as she’s freaking out in the dorms over a guy named Matthew Sovochek (Adam Scott). Jake rescues her from being kicked out and after some witty banter, they decide to lose their virginity to each other. And they created a monster. Both become sex addicts. They meet again 12 years later at a sex addict meeting group and reconnect. Lainey likes to try and convince herself she has a “love addiction” to Sovocheck, a married gynecologist. In one of the many nice touches in this script, they don’t play that profession for cheap laughs. They also keep Sovocheck as a slimeball the entire movie, without using him for comic relief. He’s got creepy glasses, a creepy mustache (didn’t he just have ‘stache in Black Mass?)…and you want to strangle him.

It’s also refreshing that they don’t keep showing sex addiction meetings. This movie earns the laughs by writing funny characters and situations, not by going down the expected paths you might think from the trailers. Sure, the trailers were funny, but it would imply this is going to go down that rom-com path. A few critics will complain that some elements are predictable, or that it uses the same formula of other similar comedies. That’s lazy critiquing, because this is a unique enough piece of writing. If it wants to delve into a rom-com trope or two, I have no problem with that. It’s not like you can write a story with a totally original plot, or make everything unpredictable. None of these same critics are complaining about knowing Matt Damon was going to be rescued [insert here, any of the three movies in which he’s been rescued].

Jake and Lainey end up becoming best friends, and have a platonic relationship. Just as we loved (well, those of us lucky enough to see it) the platonic relationship in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl…we enjoy listening to these conversations; and when you write a screenplay, that’s the best thing you can have. A similar movie might have Ashton Kutcher and some gorgeous female lead, yet if you don’t write interesting scenarios, who cares?

Sudeikis always plays characters that take me awhile to warm up to. He has this smarmy attitude, and it always sounds like he’s trying to sell you a used car. That is why it’s an even greater compliment to the writing that we can like him in this. Especially since we know he’s a womanizer. He’s still charming and has a heart, so we don’t fault him for his “addiction.”

I just can’t stop praising the writing in this film. There’s a scene where Adam Brody has a meltdown in a restaurant when he finds out Alison Brie cheated on him. What he says is just…so out of left-field and funny.

I’ve complained about other well-reviewed comedies using recycled old jokes as dialogue (Almost Famous does that famously, and Woody Allen has done it). This movie did that one time, but took an old joke and made a completely original scene with it. It involves Jake and Lainey trying to come up with a safe word for when one gets aroused during a normal conversation with each other, so they can keep their addiction in check. We laugh as he explains why they can’t use “avocado” or “Guam.” It was a brilliant scene, with a punchline about noodle salad that had me laughing out loud. There’s something so funny about normal words being used as sexual slang by a doofus character that illicits laughs. I laughed even harder when his character talks about a move called the “dirty DJ,” complete with hysterical sounds from Sudeikis to illustrate what it is.

Another way they took a familiar scene and made it original, involved a series of texts from a stalker that’s angry after a one-night stand.

Just thinking about all the hysterical scenes now is cracking me up. There’s Jake saying that what is in his pants is like an “O’Keeffe painting.” When Lainey responds, “There are worse things,” he replies, “Pollock.”

There’s a comparison to The Beatles and Blues Traveler that starts the movie. As a music lover, I found it genius; especially since I used a similar debate regarding Madonna and The Beatles just days earlier.

Here’s another thing the picture did brilliantly. They made the other couple (Jason Mantzoukas, Andrea Savage) interesting. They had a great perspective on things, but usually absurd takes about relationships and kids that were hysterical. You could see why these people would want to all hang out together. It all felt so genuine and uproariously funny.

[Side note: the closing credits have a scene with this couple that make these the funniest closing credits in five years]

The other cast member worth mentioning is Amanda Peet, who plays Jake’s boss. What her character does is a bit hard to believe (there are a few moments that are a bit unrealistic), but when you’re having such a blast, you don’t care.

The redemption of the flawed characters also feels well-earned.

If you don’t mind romantic comedies a little on the raunchy side, go see this. It’s one of my favorites of the year and one of those rare times the movie is better than the trailers.

4 stars out of 5.

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