Though the first two words in the title of writer/director Leslye Hedland’s “Sleeping With Other People” are a polite euphemism, that semantic choice probably represents her most cautious choice regarding sex. Unlike so many others dealing with romance and courtship on screen, she leans in to the thorniness that most choose to sugarcoat. She embraces the mess created by the libido’s interference with the heart.
Her two main characters, Jason Sudeikis’ Jake and Alison Brie’s Lainey, are even admitted sex addicts. Early on in the film, the two even reunite after a collegiate one-night stand at a meeting for those struggling to rein in their urges. “Shame” this is not, but it’s at least a more nuanced portrayal of sexuality than 2011’s pair of hookup movies, “Friends with Benefits” and “No Strings Attached.”
Yet sadly, Hedland also seems to borrow one too many plot points from said movies. Even as she resists reducing love into sex, Jake and Lainey’s drifting back towards each other as they try to push apart feels like a page ripped right from the rom-com playbook. There’s at least some good humor as Hedland blends in some battle of the sexes humor a la “When Harry Met Sally,” but Sudeikis and Brie lack the chemistry to sell their relationship beyond a few choice scenes. The two always feel like they are operating on different comedic frequencies.
Despite a winning ensemble that includes fantastic actors like Adam Scott, Natasha Lyonne and Amanda Peet, “Sleeping With Other People” just never coheres its parts into a satisfying whole. I suspect the only time I’ll ever think about this film again is when taking an overview of films that show how technology inhibits intimacy – Hedland does include one powerful split-screen shot of Jake and Lainey texting each other from their own beds. Though they look and connect as if they were right next to each other, their phones still make them worlds apart. B- /