Taking the winning US rom-com formula to its peak, Sleeping with Other People creates lovable characters within a witty and charming plot. This is everything that Trainwreck should have been.
The American rom-com has become an overly familiar formula, boy meets girl, they part or fall out, but by the end of the ninety minute running time they have magically fallen back into each others arms. While this sounds like an overzealous exaggeration, it’s a truism, and while it sounds like a complaint – it most definitely is not. When done well these films can be uplifting marvels with lovable, engaging characters and a witty story – when done badly they can be horrendous cliched drags. While this years flagship rom-com Trainwreck embodied for me the latter, Sleeping with Other People takes this winning formula (with quite a few twists along the way) and runs with it.
While the plot is clearly familiar, it sure is well written. Lainey (Alison Brie) loses her virginity during college to Jake (Jason Sudeikis). The two part after that faithful night, but over a decade later they’re reunited by chance at a love addicts meeting and attempt to form a platonic relationship despite their apparent mutual love.
What the film succeeds in is creating a semi-believable and engaging plot, things aren’t always perfect in their friendship, but when it goes wrong it is hilarious. Sudeikis and Brie are great in their joint-protagonist roles, with excellent chemistry – it sure looked like a joy to film. The supporting cast act as the morally supportive friends, willing the two to end their serial-lover ways and fall in love, creating a true will they or won’t they final act.
With Adam Scott as the antagonist of the film, it was an unconventional role for the Parks and Rec actor, but like the other cast-members he was fantastic as Lainey’s unlikable love interest. Scott is clearly a talented actor that thrives within these comedy settings, even if he isn’t the comic relief.
Playwright turned director Leslye Headland has created the rom-com of the year. Where Trainwreck had a similar serial-lover plot that for me became cliched mush that struggled to fill its run time, Sleeping with Other People was a hilarious and charming flick that sits with the greats of the genre. Headland manufactured a polygamous plot that’s free of slut shaming, successfully depicting the leads in good lights despite their difficulties with monogamy. The writer/directors moral compass is evidently in place, not forcing any prejudice on the audience, and allowing the broader personalities of her lead couple to shine through.
Where the film struggles is to show the difficulties of the twosomes previous relationships. While their break-ups are depicted on screen, a more in depth struggle would have made the final act feel like a greater relief, and tension of ‘will they or won’t they’ heightened. The overt positivity displayed throughout the film was welcomed, but greater inner struggle, particularly with Lainey’s break-up scene early in the film, could have advanced the characters even further. This is however a blemish in what is a solid festival rom-com.
Sundance Festival was surely better for this socially relevant rom-com, lets hope wider audiences take the film in the positive light it deserves. If you haven’t seen it already, give it a go. You probably won’t regret it.