“Sleeping With Other People” is a romantic comedy for people who generally dislike romantic comedies. This very funny, tart-tongued film does not quite break from the conventional rom-com formula. But with a killer lead pairing – former “Saturday Night Live” star Jason Sudeikis and “Community”/“Mad Men” star Alison Brie – and a nicely naughty script, “Sleeping” qualifies as a modest success.
The time is certainly right for a comedy with two delightfully realistic protagonists, the type who make mistakes constantly, joke about HPV and chlamydia, and somehow can’t seem to figure out why they’re perennially dating (or sleeping with) the wrong people.
Director Leslye Headland’s second feature (after the 2012 Kirsten Dunst comedy “Bachelorette”) starts in the early 2000s, as college students Jake (Sudeikis) and Lainey (Brie) meet-kinda-cute, and realize they have something major in common: They are still virgins.
A nicely fumbling first sexual experience follows, and soon we skip to the present day, in which both characters have gone their separate ways. Single Jake is a likable womanizer whose married-with-children business partner Xander is in a very different place. (Xander calls his friend “the biggest slut in the world.”)
Lainey is a serial cheater whose most recent boyfriend (a very funny Adam Brody) doesn’t take the news of her outside dalliances very well. She also is struggling with the news that her old boyfriend, a doctor played by Adam Scott with a weasel mustache, is soon to be married.
Jake and Lainey run into each other outside of a sex addiction meeting – of course – and slowly begin to realize they have too much in common not to be great friends. They quickly become confidants for each other, all while fighting the obvious attraction they (still) have for each other.
These characters, especially Lainey, are prone to utterly foolish feelings and decisions, and while that can be annoying for the viewer (it’s hard to tell why she is so hung up on Scott’s off-putting character), it lends a feeling of real-life silliness to the proceedings. Real people have these sometimes inexplicable problems, and that means Headland’s film often takes a sledgehammer to rom-com cliché.
That’s why it’s a tad surprising the film ends on the type of happy note that’s not unlike all manner of Hollywood romantic comedy. It is perhaps an earned ending, yet something as acidic as the rest might have better fit the characters.
Sudeikis is more appealing here than he has ever been on screen. He has not distinguished himself much outside of “SNL,” whether the films have been hits (“We’re the Millers,” “Horrible Bosses”) or flops (the underrated “Hall Pass”).
The real star of “Sleeping With Other People,” however, is Brie. She was a consistent highlight on “Community” and made the most of her small role on “Mad Men.”
On the big screen, however, she has been wasted in such tripe as the Will Ferrell disaster “Get Hard.” It took a writer-director as canny as Headland to show how adorably off-kilter and wildly funny Brie can be as an actor. It won’t linger long in your consciousness, but for its 90 minutes, “Sleeping With Other People” is an entertaining anti-rom-com. You’ll never look at an empty bottle of green tea the same way again.
“Sleeping With Other People”
Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Amanda Peet
Director: Leslye Headland
Running time: 92 minutes
Rating: R for strong sexual content, language including sexual references, and some drug use.
The lowdown: A good-natured womanizer and a serial cheater form a platonic relationship that helps reform them in ways, while a mutual attraction sets in.