We’ve Seen This Movie Before…..

Director: LESLYE HEADLAND/2015

Sleeping with Other People is the 2nd film for director Leslye Headland (Bachelorette) and features the romantic pairing of Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses 2We’re the Millers) and Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men, The Lego Movie). In this latest version of a raunch-rom-com, Sudeikis is Jake, a laid-back college student who witnesses the half-crazed Lainey (Brie) trying to beat down the door of boring med student Matthew (Adam Scott-Parks and Recreation, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) whom she is obsessively in love with. To keep her from getting in trouble with the R.A. on the floor when Matthew isn’t home, Jake invites her in to his room where they eventually hook up on the roof of the dorm after genuine conversations, and of course admitting that they are both virgins.

At this point in their lives, they have found each other.  They share the same values, have honest emotions towards each other, and are genuinly admiring the other person. Everything at this point should end happily ever after.  The only problem is that there would be no reason to have the rest of the story…not that it matters much.  The film picks up nearly 12 years later.  In that time, Jake has become a serial cheater, bouncing his way from woman to woman to woman.  He knows how to play the field, now setting his sights on his new boss Paula (Amanda Peet).

After not having seen Lainey since that one night on the rooftop, they of course meet again….at a sex addicts meeting.  Over the years, she has stayed obsessed with Matthew, now a gynecologist, despite the fact that he is getting married to someone else but keeps Lainey on the line as his go-to booty call.  Every relationship she starts is doomed if Matthew messes with her head.

Deciding that they both need to stop having sex with so many people, since that is the root of their problems, they choose to rekindle their friendship with a code word if things are heading down Sex lane.  This of course allows them to get to know each other….their true selves without any sexual contact messing things up…..yada yada yada, and you know where this whole film is heading.

Different slants on this theme have popped up over the years, whether its Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake in Friends with Benefits, or Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman in No Strings Attached.  The whole hanging out with your best friend until you realize you’re falling for him/her has also been played out ad nauseum in everything from My Best Friend’s Wedding, Made of Honor, The Wedding PlannerSweet Home Alabama, and With Honors.

The fact is, I could sit down and think of countless titles with variations of this theme and even create one of those Facebook polls to see how many of them you have seen.  The bigger question is why do we keep wanting them to be made? And for the director and the actors, I’d ask the question, “why did you think this film told this well-covered theme in such a unique way that it had to be revisited with another offering?”

The fact is that it doesn’t.

That’s not to say that there aren’t moments.  And if you are a fan of either Brie or Sudeikis, they still have very charismatic personalities that are endearing.  Adam Scott’s mustache alone is hilarious. But the standard “let’s be a bit edgy with the crass humor, language, and promiscuous nature of our protagonist until we can remake them into a warm-gooey feel good story about true love” thing is old hat now.  Its time to move on.  Sleeping with Other People, while not the worst in this genre, is certainly arriving in time to hopefully kill it off for a while.

The irony of trying to be edgy and progressive in your depiction of promiscuous sex and the single life of New York’s young people is that the film still operates as a call back to traditionalism.  The girl isn’t very progressive when she still secretly pines for the security of a man who will take care of her and treat her right, while having melt downs just after seeing him with the girl he “chose”. This is not a strong character, but a victim. He isn’t very progressive either as he is still looking for the girl who causes him to stay at home at night and stop his philandering ways.

These type of films are disingenuous because they settle on the very notions they tell us throughout the film they are fighting against.  Each new “take” on this genre bases their unique perspective on some form of progressivism in the battle of the sexes, while ultimately realizing that maybe those old romantic, traditional notions that our grandparents lived out so many years ago, and that were captured in cinema’s heyday, might actually have some validity.

Rather than drag us through the gutter for 90 minutes of navel-gazing nymphomaniacs whose permanent gaze is stuck on the mirror they’re standing in front of, just give us a good old fashioned film of people who already realize a grand vision of true romanticism and let us watch them strive to reach it.  Jerry McGuire was a great example of a modern version of this.

These ideas of losers finding their way into a great relationship in spite of themselves has played its last card for a while.  Let it end. This film could have ended right after they find each other in college.  Had Sleeping with Other People had the courage to do so, it would have saved us from a waste of our time, as well as 12 years of cinema time for the characters making every terrible mistake they could make. They would have been a lot happier…….and so would we.