Sleeping with Other People (2015)
dir. Leslye Headland
written by: Leslye Headland
starring: Jason Sudekis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Jason Mantzoukas, Amanda Peet
3.5 out of 4 stars
Sex comedies provide touchy material for suggestions. Relaying a night’s cinema experience to a coworker in her mid sixties can make one question if graphic sexual content is going to be down his or her alley. Even making suggestions to some friends has provided qualms, but that is usually when I get into Strangers by the Lake or Shortbus when they can’t discern drama from pornography (Hint: it’s all in the closeups). That’s an entirely different conversation though. Here, I’m talking the realm of Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached where the sexuality is in the title. Fortunately we have arrived at a graphically sexual pleasure that shouldn’t terrify one’s parents exceptionally.
In Sleeping with Other People, Jake (Jason Sudekis) saves Lainey–never Elaine–from embarrassing herself in attempt to fuck her TA Matthew (Adam Scott). This dormroom invasion leads to both the college students losing their respective virginities. One night stand and ten years later, the two unexpectedly reunite to form a friendship that actively avoids sex, safeword and all. Following respective romantic and sexual encounters, two friends explore how to not make the terrible relationship mistakes plaguing their lives. Hilarity and a surprising amount of depth and turmoil transpire.
Surpassing all preconceptions I had regarding her post-Community career, Alison Brie breaks into theaters with a confident, present breakout. Her cute exterior on television evolved into a womanly sexuality slipping out, beautifully filling out lingerie. Escaping the cute girl next door television career I predicted, she maintains the likability with amping up the charge. When playing teacher, she is sweet, but breakdown after breakdown, she pulls through anxiety issues for a fully believable performance. Blending the heartbreak of recovery with a lovable exterior, Brie allows Lainey to be a woman worth respecting past her flaws.
From a pure delivery standpoint, Jason Sudekis can deliver a joke. Well written lines don’t work without an actor ready to recite them; Jason’s extended jokes in this movie are spot on. The film deserves to be watched too much to ruin the lines in print, but believe the script is quotable. Sudekis never drops a single sarcastic jab or pop culture reference, and who knows how much of this was ad libbed (I’m guessing he might). Much like my well appreciated Bill Hader, Jason Sudekis affords not only leading man qualities but also sex appeal I didn’t anticipate.
The pair dripped chemistry; the need for a safeword benefitted the audience, snapping them out of their own erotic attraction. Naturally appealing, the pair was able to torture each other with games that monopolized physical comedy and blatant sexuality. Sometimes they were quite over the top, but what is love if it is not exuberant? I’m avoid any spoilers, but be warned to bring something to cover one’s lap.
Aiding to the charismatic not couple is the direction by Leslye Headland, following up making Kristen Dunst fun and Rebel Wilson human in Bachelorette. Filmed in wide moving shots, comedy enjoys a broad pleasure, but in mastering a comedic closeup, a director must master precision. Jason Sudekis and Alison Brie engaging in an impressively informative masturbation lesson, a scene so easily destroyed, proved a laugh out loud funny scene; her actors were so comfortable and confident, even in such pore intensive framing.
Working with one of the strongest ensembles in recent memory, not a single performance is wasted. She harnesses the voluminous ramblings of Billy Eichner into a queer lamentation of his former behaviors, and she tones down Jason Mantzoukas’s usual jackassery (Dennis Feinstein in Parks and Recreation) and makes him a favorable father and friend. She was able to break out of typecasting with interesting characters but what she drew out of each of her actors breathed ability.
Expectations exceeded. Sleeping with Other People was a refreshing surprise with an amazing script only improved by the additions of the actors. Writer director Leslye Headland crafted a fine comedy with appreciable romance, and leads Alison Brie and Jason Sudekis hold the screen apart and together. Do yourself a favor and see it.