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Sleeping With Other People

One for both hardcore rom-com fans and movie lovers looking for a fresh take on modern sex and romance.
By Sarah Ward
November 09, 2015
By Sarah Ward
November 09, 2015

When it comes to fashioning a successful rom-com, finding the right blend of romance and raunchiness is a delicate balancing act. If too much of the former is present, the film can wallow in cliché and sappiness. If too much of the latter rears its head, the physical side of things can overtake the emotional aspects.

Sleeping With Other People might boast a title seemingly aligned more with one of these camps than the other; however this amusing, endearing look at the lives and loves of reunited college classmates happily finds the middle ground. Sexually candid dialogue combines with sweetness, yet never of the syrupy variety. The movie's characters want a happy ending, but they want to earn it — and they want it in all its forms.

In 2002, Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis) meet during a dorm room altercation, start chatting about matters of the heart and body, and then lose their virginity to each other on the same night. Twelve years later, they cross paths at a sex addiction group, with both harbouring intimacy and commitment issues that plague their dating encounters. Sparks fly, though given their respective romantic troubles, they agree they'd be better off remaining as pals. That decision starts to haunt them as they realise that their bond has all the hallmarks of a relationship, other than the slipping between the sheets part.

There's never any doubt that both Lainey and Jake are frequently thinking about being more than friends — and while the course the largely brightly-shot Sleeping With Other People bounces along isn't difficult to foresee, the film is primarily concerned with them fighting that urge. For the central duo, they're trying to flee from their past problems and approach romance with maturity for a change. For writer/director Leslye Headland (Bachelorette), she's attempting to explore the non-bump-and-grind aspects of falling in love.

That means that a scenario that seems ripped from the familiar actually becomes much more thoughtful, stripping away the schmaltz and adding an ample dose of authenticity. It's also ripe for comedy, whether flinging fast-paced, filthy dialogue between the protagonists (or fellow cast members Natasha Lyonne, Jason Mantzoukas, Amanda Peet and Marc Blucas as various friends and lovers), joyously enjoying Brie getting her groove back by dancing to David Bowie's 'Modern Love', or finding humorous truths in darker, more reflective moments.

Of course, banter infused with wit, wisdom and warmth is only part of the rom-com package, however relatable it proves. As the genre has demonstrated time and again, getting audiences to actually believe the connection between the characters is a large part of the hard work. Here, Sleeping With Other People benefits from excellent casting, as fans of Community and Saturday Night Live will already know. Brie and Sudeikis dial up the chemistry that the film so crucially relies upon, yet never at the expense of fleshing out their roles.

That mix of the expected and textured is the movie's ultimate balancing act, and serves it as well as it does it stars. Sleeping With Other People knows you know what's going to happen, but filters it through frankness, upbeat realism and an engaging double act, resulting in a rom-com delight that feels as genuine as it does honest.

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