All words: Rachel Kurzius
“This was almost just very romantic and then you fucked it up,” Laney (Alison Brie) tells Jake (Jason Sudeikis) the first time they meet, after he finds her throwing garbage bins and banging on a door in his college dorm. He seems to admire her rage and they spend the night smoking weed and talking.“It was?” Jake says in shock. And then it is, sort of, again, as the two virgins have sex for the first time.
This scene explains the crux of Sleeping With Other People, which looks at all the ways we screw ourselves over when we start screwing other people. But even when people try to keep things platonic, there’s still no way to avoid the complications of intimacy.
In their second meet-cute in under ten minutes, Laney and Jake find themselves a decade later in a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting. She is still obsessed with the man she originally sought in that college dorm (Adam Scott, who always plays smarmy well), while his constant philandering means he can’t keep a relationship together. While their repartee is as on point as the first time around, they recognize that they should keep their relationship away from the bedroom so they can stay in each other’s lives.
So much of our communication, for both friends and lovers, happens over text messages, and Sleeping With Other People shows the gap between the world we’re typing about to other people and the one that really exists. As Jake and Laney chat via text, we see just how much of themselves they’re revealing to one another. “I don’t think I like myself enough to introduce him to other people,” Jake admits to Laney over text. You can see in that moment how vulnerable he is making himself to her, even as he lies in bed with another woman.
What’s most refreshing about Sleeping With Other People is that writer/director Leslye Headland doesn’t treat Jake and Laney as stock characters ignorant of their killer chemistry. When they have issues they will actually say, “Wanna talk about it?” Like many people, they are well aware of their emotional issues even if they have no idea how to solve them. One unfortunately timed fast-forward skips over some of that interesting work.
While Sleeping With Other People has some riotously funny moments, it can be tonally inconsistent. How serious are Jake and Laney’s issues, and can they really be funny? The aforementioned Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting features a speech from Billy Eichner that plays the entire idea of sex addiction for laughs. But when Laney gets a text from her obsession, Brie conveys the pain and longing with some of the best eye acting of 2015.
Jason Mantzoukas plays Jake’s best friend as anything but Jake’s straight man. His zany energy, as well as that of his wife (Andrea Savage), buoys the movie forward and shows that rote monogamy can be just as playful as playing the field.