Sleeping with Other People ***

Jason Sudeikis is in top form in this predictable but funny rom-com.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Given that romantic comedies often wallow in the mire of clichéd tedium on their way to mediocrity, it’s a high compliment to say “Sleeping with Other People” is legitimately good for a laugh. It borrows freely from other (better) movies, doesn’t do anything original, and doesn’t really have much to say. But you know what? It’s funny, and that’s what counts.

We’re immediately taken by the chemistry of Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie. They play Jake and Lainey, two late-starters who lost their virginity to one another in college, never spoke again, and bump into one another 12 years later at a sex addicts’ meeting. Platonic friendship ensues, yet the sexual tension is palpable – they even come up with a code word to say when feeling turned on by the other – but they very maturely deny their natural temptations for the sake of the friendship.

There’s a good reason: They’re both terrible in relationships, and they know it. Jake has no interest in remaining faithful to girlfriends, and Lainey can’t shake her affection for Matthew (Adam Scott), a nerdy OB GYN who’s married and not leaving his wife anytime soon. So Jake and Lainey hang out, have blunt discussions about sex and life. She’s mostly okay with it when he dates his boss Paula (Amanda Peet), and he’s less okay with it when she starts dating Chris (Mark Blucas). Their friends see that Jake and Lainey are perfect for one another, and they do talk about getting together, but worry the relationship will ruin their friendship. If you’ve ever seen a romantic comedy you know how this turns out.

The script is sharp, the comedic timing is spot-on and the editing is tight. Credit for all of this goes to writer/director Leslye Headland, who previously made the underrated “Bachelorette” (2012). Headland keeps the pace moving so the story never grows stale, and she provides Sudeikis and Brie with choice dialog that each actor nicely executes. For example, in the opening moments Jake compares Blues Traveler and The Beatles to losing one’s virginity in a way that’s both smart and humorous, and later he teaches her how to touch herself in a scene that’s first funny, then radiates with sexual tension. Throughout, Sudeikis’ delivery, whether insulting someone or being a wise guy, is an absolute delight. What’s more, his chemistry with Brie is easy, unforced and natural, showing a comfort that Jake and Lainey would undoubtedly share. This is important because if we don’t believe in their bond, all else is for naught. 

But it’s more than just a Sudeikis and Brie showcase. A cameo from Billy Eichner (“Parks and Recreation”) offers a series of laugh-out-loud one-liners at the sex addicts’ meeting, Natasha Lyonne has some clever quips as Lainey’s friend, and Jason Mantzoukas and Andrea Savage are consistently hilarious as the married couple with kids who envy Jake and Lainey’s freedom.

“Sleeping with Other People” has nothing new to say and willingly falls into the formula that plagues most romantic comedies. But I’ve always maintained that romantic comedies succeed on the basis of how successfully they bring humor to the otherwise recycled story, and this movie is funny with room to spare.

Did you know?
The film was a hit at the Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals in 2015.

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