Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Writer-Director Leslye Headland’s SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE takes the romcom genre to refreshingly raunchy and romantic heights – to places that would make both Harry and Sally blush. In the film, Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis play relationship self-saboteurs Lainey and Jake, who meet-cute again 12 years after they first slept with each other. Determined to not mess up fate’s gift, they form a pact to keep things platonic – something that’s more easier said than done. Witty insights, bawdy talk and disarmingly hilarious shenanigans ensue as the two try to resist falling in love with each other.
Brie felt an instant emotional connection with Lainey, who doubles as Headland’s cinematic avatar.
“Once we got on set, it was a lot of emotional connection to each other. It was really wonderful having a female director and someone who had been through this stuff already. As we were shooting, I felt Leslye was emotionally taking the ride with me because she was probably emotionally reliving things that happened to her.”
Headland’s film dives deep into some pretty risqué places – the most explicit winding up on the cutting room floor. Gone is a longer version of Lainey’s sex scene with Matthew Sobecheck (Adam Scott), which had him going down on her from behind. Brie says,
“There was some additional stuff that had to be cut that was making audiences too uncomfortable, which is not advantageous for us. The whole point of that scene is you want people to understand why Lainey is obsessed with that guy. The way it was initially written, I didn’t think it was going too far. One of the things that drew me to this project was that it was so beautifully written. For a sex scene, it was much more about, even though it was quite graphic, there was no nudity. The graphic nature of the scene was not the point of the scene. I felt like that was a pivotal scene in terms of who the character was.”
Though Scott is saddled with playing the “bad guy,” he never viewed his character as a jerk.
“I saw the character as a particular kind of person who’s a little unhappy and lonesome. This is just how he’s decided to cope. But yeah, he doesn’t come off particularly well.”
His character gets in a physical altercation in a café late in the movie – a scene shot in one take. Turns out, it wasn’t as intense as it appears on screen. He elucidates,
“They did map it out in a rehearsal room a couple weeks before. It’s one take – we did it a few times and then they moved in for coverage outside. We did it a few times and that was it. It wasn’t really that crazy of stunts.”
With this type of comedy, improv was a welcomed thing. Jason Mantzoukas, who plays Jake’s co-worker/ bestie Xander says,
“Leslye wrote a great script with tons of great jokes, but also really willing to open it up and find other jokes.”
Andrea Savage, who plays Xander’s wife Naomi, adds,
“My character was not in the script as much when she gave it to me. So she was very much, ‘I’m asking you to come in and add stuff.’ In that way, she was like, ‘Please! Do something!’”
The scene that plays with them over the end credits spotlights these improved moments. Mantzoukas explains,
“Leslye gave us a list of topics and stuff like that to touch on. But most of it was improvised, very last minute.”
Mantzoukas adored breaking out of the genre’s mold of “best friend.” He welcomed that it was a change from the stereotypical norm.
“I think the best friend roles in some of those movies can be pretty one note. It’s either the ‘Uuugh. The married couple where we don’t want their marriage.’ Or the best friend guy who’s like, ‘Don’t get married man. It’s the pitts!’ We were happy to represent a marriage that was much more relatable and real. Xander is a guy who’s rooting for his best friend to figure it out and get it together.”
Savage also valued portraying someone in a caring, loving marriage as those relationships are found few and far between on the big screen.
“You rarely see a couple that’s been married that long and portrayed in a movie or TV who are happy and still get a kick out of each other. Yes, we’re tired, but you can tell we genuinely still love each other. I feel like a lot of people have that in real life.”
One of the film’s standout sequences is when Jake and Lainey show up to Xander and Naomi’s kid’s birthday party high on Molly. The scene climaxes with Lainey dancing to David Bowie’s “Modern Love,” semi-provocatively in front of a gaggle of eight-year-olds. Brie says,
“I got a videotape of the choreography a week in advance – while we were shooting. I’d study it in my trailer at lunch and got to rehearse with the kids a bit the day before. [Leslye] had such a clear vision of Lainey’s transformation, the walk down the stairs, the taking off the shirt beat was clearly mapped out already. And there was fluidity in the actual execution of the dance. It was a fun day – one of my favorite days. It was a nice break for me, character-wise. Even in the highly comedic scenes, for me, playing them in the moment, they were dramatic. I was living in this very emotional world during most of the shooting of this movie. That day, because our characters were on Molly, we were in ecstasy. It was nice to experience pure joy throughout that day.”
And that dance was choreographed by someone famous! Savage let the detail slip, saying,
“The person who choreographed the dance sequence was SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE’s Mandy Moore. I was very excited. That’s the kind of thing I’ll geek out over.”
SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE is now playing in select theaters.