American playwright turned writer-director Leslye Headland received a fair amount of critical praise for her debut feature Bachelorette (2012), which saw a trio of women asked to be bridesmaids to a former victim of their school bullying. Her sophomore effort, Sleeping with Other People (2015), is an unfortunately hideous affair. Toplined by two skilled comedic actors who both deserve more than the trite script awards them, the crudity builds throughout, resulting in a film that’s deeply unpleasant. Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) lose their virginity to one another when the latter breaks into Columbia University and strikes up an unexpected bond with Jake.
Years pass and after admitting to her boyfriend that she cheated on him, Lainey bumps into Jake, and the two bond over their equally messed up personalities: her a love addict who spends her time obsessing over an old flame (Adam Scott) and him a sex addict. They decide to embark upon a platonic friendship, all the while continuing to screw up and hide their true feelings towards each other. The will-they-won’t-they romantic entanglement at the films core is perhaps its redeeming feature, in addition to the well meaning performances delivered by Brie and Sudeikis. But the script is so inherently crass and over-the-top with its desire to shock that the subtler moments barely register. Brie’s character is woefully undeserved, a woman defined only by her fondness for low-cut tops and her dependence for the love of an unobtainable man.
Not that Jake comes off any better. His arc, too, is unbelievable. At the end, when all is said and done, the problems that brought on his addiction are still there, no effort has been made to eradicate them entirely. For all the talking the characters do, neither of them feel the need to see a therapist and truly own – or advance past – their illnesses. But instead of displaying any true interest in the characters that inhabit her film, Headland throws vile material at the screen, hoping that some of it – any of it – will stick. It doesn’t though, and what’s left is a predictable narrative that kicks and screams to make itself heard. There’s nothing new to be seen here. In fact, everything Sleeping with Other People does reinstates how stereotypical, hateful and audience-pleasing Hollywood comedies can often be.