Why can’t men and women just be friends and why does sexual tension always seem to get in the way? It’s the subject of many romantic comedies, including Sleeping with Other People, the latest offering from writer-director Leslye Headland (Bachelorette). A hit at Sundance, where it showed earlier this year, the film doesn’t break any new ground and struggles to develop anything resembling a plot (outside of do they or don't they fall in love?). Its strength — it features some well-written, often funny dialogue. The film opens area-wide today.
The film starts in 2002. Decked out in a mini-skirt, cute co-ed Lainey (Alison Brie) is throwing a tantrum at a college dorm when Jake (Jason Sudeikis) intervenes before the hall monitor can alert the campus police. She was on her way to lose her virginity to her teaching assistant, Matthew Sovochek (Adam Scott). Instead, she loses it to Jake as the two end up smoking pot on the rooftop together and talking about life and how to live it.
Flash-forward to the present day. Jake has become a successful computer programmer. He’s also become a womanizer who can talk his way out of just about any conundrum. Lainey has become a grade school teacher, but she’s just cheated on her boyfriend Sam (Adam Brody) with the aforementioned Matthew Sovochek, who just happens to be engaged to another woman. Yes, both Jake and Lainey have issues, and they meet randomly one night for the first time since college after a sex addict meeting.
Lainey contacts Jake afterward, and they go on their first-ever date, revealing that they screw up all their relationships and probably shouldn't date one another. In the wake of that, Jake confesses he still wants to sleep with her. They text sweet, sometimes dirty things back and forth all day long while Jake continues his womanizing ways. But they do develop a friendship, hanging out on occasion to share some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and watch movies while keeping their friendship platonic. “We’re not a couple but we act like one,” Lainey tells him one night as the film predictably loses its flippant tone and tries to address the complexity of interpersonal relationships.
Headland certainly has an ear for clever dialogue, and the movie comes off something that’s slightly smarter than your average promantic comedy. Sudeikis has a terrific deadpan delivery that’s well-suited to Jake, but Brie isn’t funny or charming enough to keep up. The lack of any significant story makes the movie lack any real staying power.