James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Clay // Film Critic
New York City is not a character in director Leslye Headland’s subversive rom-com SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE. That cliché is far too broad for the NYC native’s sensibilities that lie within this raunchy yet sweet film. It takes the conventions you may have expected and flips the script while giving you a few very flawed but likable characters. And if you are paying attention to the dialogue, you may just get a lesson on how to love.
Our two romantic leads Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) meet in college and after a nice convo and a few quips wind up having some good old fashioned virgin sex with each other. Flash forward 12 years and the formidable experience shapes the two individuals into adults with relationship issues that real people actually go through. The two form a platonic relationship and the film asks the typical question, “Can men and women be just friends?” The answer is yes, they can– but we all know the trappings of a romantic comedy. So in this case, no way.
Headland’s refreshing take on modern dating is calibrated almost perfectly to the actual landscape looks today (Hint: it really sucks and it’s super stressful). Jake is well on his way into being a multi-millionaire through a startup that he works on with his married best bud Xander (THE LEAGUE’S Jason Mantzoukas), but Jake just can’t “grow up” and quit sleeping around. In one instance, Jake convinces a girl he has been having causal sex with for three months that they are not dating. He’s sort of a wizard, a really immature wizard, but with the charm of the talented Sudiekis.
As for Lainey, she’s a fully realized character and really one of my personal favorite on screen, all year. She just seems so authentic and natural, which has to do with Brie’s performance– but Headland wrote this character quite well. Lainey is sleeping with Matthew (Adam Scott), a married man who is her psychologist. It’s a pretty fudged relationship to say the least which causes Lainey an exponential amount of anxiety. Most have experienced that feeling when that special somebody calls and you get a bad rush of adrenaline that goes up through your spine and into your chest. Well, that’s Lainey all the time seduced by the notion that she can win this man from his wife (played by up-and-coming Katherine Waterston).
The dialogue in the film grits its teeth and bites down on these conventions. SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE draws comparisons to the successful Amy Schumur comedy TRAINWRECK, but brings a kernel of truth to dating and profile young thirty-somethings in a far more truthful and realistic light. It’s just not NEARLY as funny. Headland knows what she’s doing with her dialogue and even though it’s not fully there she’s a wonderful talent to keep an eye on in the coming years.