Despite a lack of Katherine Heigl the new romantic comedy “Sleeping with Other People” follows the patented Heigl Method© rom com design to a tee—unlikely couple meets, falls in love, overcomes obstacles, breaks up and… well, I’m not going to give away the ending but if you don’t know it already then either you don’t have a romantic bone in your body or you’ve never seen a Katherine Heigl movie (“Under Siege 2: Dark Territory” excluded).
When we first meet Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis) it’s 2002 and they are students at Columbia. They meet cute and wind up losing their virginity to one another. Cut to twelve years later, he’s a tech whiz of some sort, she’s a teacher and both have sex addiction issues. She’s hung up on her college romance Matt (Adam Scott), a married doctor Jake describes as “having all the charm of a broken Etch-A-Sketch.” He’s a slick talking ladies’ man who cheats on his girlfriends rather than tell them he doesn’t like them anymore. The pair reconnect at a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting and after one date decide they will remain friends, removing the element of sex that always lands them in romantic hot water. Of course, this is a Heigl Method© rom com, so the only people who don’t realize that Lainey and Jake are a perfect couple is Lainey and Jake.
“Sleeping with Other People” might have been more effective if it didn’t adhere so strictly to the old possum that men and women can’t be friends. Lainey and Jake have a wonderful platonic relationship, spending quality time walking in Central Park, sharing secrets and generally doing the things friends do in lieu of pawing at one another. In the end it feels like a cheat (MILD SPOILER ONLY IF YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN A ROM COM AND CAN’T FIGURE OUT WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO THESE TWO) to pair them off at the end when it would have been far more interesting for the pair to remain platonically involved and explore the dynamics of that relationship. To have them fall into one another’s arms and beds is the crowd-pleasing way out, but less satisfying as a look at the way actual humans relate to one another.
Sudeikis and Brie are a fetching couple and have good chemistry. In their quieter moments they’re quite appealing but this is no 21st century “When Harry Met Sally.” Jake’s fast patter is only about half as charming as the movie thinks it is and Lainey’s obsession with Matt feels overwrought and unreal, like “Fatal Attraction” without the simmering rabbit. The occasional bits of sharp dialogue and the laughs are welcome, but generally everything—the plot points and base emotions—are telegraphed early and often.
Watching “Sleeping with Other People” I couldn’t help but think the movie focused on the wrong couple. Jake’s business partner Xander (Jason Mantzoukas) and his wife Naomi (Andrea Savage) are a much more dynamic duo. Too bad director Leslye Headland didn’t give them more attention while Lainey and Jake worked through their issues off screen.