At the Saturday night premiere of her sexy, very funny and surprisingly sweet comedy, “Sleeping With Other People,” director Leslye Headland said that she pitched it to her eventual star Jason Sudeikis as a far less saccharine “When Harry Met Sally.”
Indeed, she has created a “When Harry Met Sally” for a new generation, where sex is no longer the subtext but the entire text.
We’re introduced to Lainey (Alison Brie of “Community” and “Mad Men”) and Jake (Sudeikis) in college, where the pair of feisty virgins decide to have sex on a New York rooftop within a few hours of their first “hello.” The film catches up with each over a decade later, where both are having screaming, public breakups with their respective significant others over cheating.
Jake can’t commit to anyone. Lainey is addicted to one affair.
The two beautiful near-strangers run into each for the first time since that fateful night in a potentially awkward group meeting. They consider dating, admit mutual attraction and, ultimately, decide to just be friends.
At this point, you’re probably thinking you know exactly what’s to come. In fact, you probably do.
The plot may sound conventional, but Headland, whose “Bachelorette” premiered at Sundance in 2012, subverts expectations at every turn with the help of witty, frank dialogue and a solid and believable emotional center that so many rom-coms lack.
Early on, Lainey confronts her emotionally unavailable affair (Adam Scott), and with tears in her eyes and shaking hands, asks him to delete his number off of her phone. She won’t be able to do it, she says quietly. It’s both heartbreaking and wholly unexpected.
Sure there might be a drug-induced dance performed at a 7-year-old’s birthday party, and various other trappings of the modern sex comedy (though somehow they all work here), but there’s also a true love story at the center that makes this more than its contemporaries thanks to the excellent leads and supporting cast (including a terrific Jason Mantzoukas).
“Sleeping With Other People” takes a while to find its voice, but once it hits its stride, it’s impossible not to get caught up in its charms.