At a time when studios seem to have all but abandoned romcoms in favour of films with spandex and dinosaurs, ‘Bachelorette’ writer-director Leslye Headland delivers an updated riff on ‘When Harry Met Sally’ (if Harry and Sally were openly hot for each other).
‘Sleeping with Other People’ begins in the fall of 2002, as two Columbia undergrads swap virginities on the rooftop of their halls of residence. Thirteen years later, Jake (Jason Sudeikis) is a womanising entrepreneur who just cheated on his girlfriend with her sister. Lainey (Alison Brie) is a kindergarten teacher who’s two-timing her boyfriend with the creepy gynaecologist (Adam Scott) she’s been obsessed with since college. Both of them are masters of self-sabotage: Jake doesn’t want to get intimate enough for anyone to hurt him, while Lainey can’t stop being hurt by the same guy. When the old flames reunite at a sex addicts meeting, they decide to give friendship a try, agreeing to rely on a safe word (‘mousetrap’) every time one of them feels an itch of sexual tension.
Headland loves romcoms too much to overly subvert them, but she spices things up at every turn, allowing for a degree of dirtiness that movies like this seldom explore. The almost pathologically charming Sudeikis was born to play a scene in which he uses an empty bottle to teach Lainey how to masturbate. So it hurts that most of the jokes fall short of their potential.