Sleeping with Other People (3 stars)

Leslye Headland’s latest comedy about copping off sadly cops out by the end

Writer-director Leslye Headland brings the fantasy New Yorker to screen in Sleeping with Other People; crafting exuberant, metropolitan existences spent vocalising what’s usually left regrettably unsaid. Mostly, we’re talking about those topics that fall outside of the usual sexual mores. These characters may have screwed the proverbial pooch, but at least they’re capable of elucidating on exactly where it all went so wrong. Unlike the rest of us, as we swallow down those feelings long enough to go home and punch them out into a couch pillow.

This is an expression of modern love at its most verbose. All text, no subtext; so literal, in fact, that David Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’ pops up on the soundtrack. Headland’s approach allows ample room for neurotic hilarity (including a cuckolded Adam Brody screaming, ‘Whose juices have I been tasting?’), and the portrayal of a relationship rarely seen within rom-com territory. Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis) cross paths at a sex addiction group, having long ago lost their virginities to each other in college. Realising their mutual attraction has survived, it’s nevertheless agreed that two people so damaged should only ever remain friends.

Yet, it doesn’t suffice here to merely ask When Harry Met Sally’s archaic question of ‘Can men and women be friends?’ because Headland’s after something messier, delving into that murky world of subconscious lifelines; of the first number we dial when it’s 2am and we’re crying in a bathroom stall. Those strange individuals we’re relentlessly drawn back to, even if it’s against our will.

Why, then, must we still regress back to that neat, sweet world of rom-coms by the film’s closing moments? As a kindred spirit to the jarringly nice denouement of Headland’s otherwise caustic debut Bachelorette, it’s overwhelmingly tempting to look for motivations here. Perhaps Headland is afraid of her films being too unlikable for audiences, or this an attempt to legitimise herself within the mainstream. Because, ultimately, why sacrifice all this smart, perceptive modernity for a finale hewn of Hollywood cliché?

Limited release from Fri 1 Jan.

Sleeping with Other People

  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 1h 35min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Leslye Headland
  • Cast: Alison Brie, Jason Sudeikis, Natasha Lyonne, Amanda Peet, Adam Scott
  • UK release: 1 January 2015

Lainey (Brie) and Jake (Sudeikis) encounter each other at a sex addiction group, having lost their virginities to each other long ago at college; this time they agree to make friends. What starts out as a smart, perceptive comedy about damaged people goes squarely and disappointingly into conventional romcom territory by…