When Jake meets Lainey the

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Stephen Romei

Sleep­ing with Other Peo­ple (MA15+) Na­tional re­lease The Last Witch Hunter (M) Na­tional re­lease

If you have read any­thing about Sleep­ing with

Other Peo­ple, the lat­est anti-ro­mance from Amer­i­can play­wright and film­maker Les­lye Head­land ( Bach­e­lorette, the play and movie), you have prob­a­bly seen the di­rec­tor’s com­ment that this film is “When Harry Met Sally for ass­holes’’. That much-quoted opin­ion epit­o­mises the prob­lem with the film as a whole: it sounds clever but is in fact stupid.

I don’t think, by the way, that Head­land means the film is one that only ass­holes, or ass­holes in par­tic­u­lar, should flock to see. That would be un­fair of her: ass­holes are peo­ple too, and are as prone to dis­ap­point­ment as the best of us. I think she means the two main char­ac­ters, the Harry and Sally up­dates, are ass­holes. The trou­ble with this is that they aren’t re­ally. If only they were we might have a more in­ter­est­ing view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. More­over, Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met

Sally, scripted by Nora Ephron, is a su­pe­rior ro­man­tic com­edy that holds up as well to­day as it did on its re­lease in 1989. Billy Crys­tal’s Harry and Meg Ryan’s Sally are be­liev­able char­ac­ters en­gaged in a nu­anced ex­plo­ration of the ageold ques­tion of whether men and women can be just friends. That is also the dilemma at the ar­ti­fi­cial heart of Sleep­ing with Other Peo­ple, hence Head­land’s re­mark I sup­pose, but the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of it lacks plau­si­bil­ity. Per­son­ally I think there’s more re­al­ism in The Hob­bit films.

We first meet our two pu­ta­tive ass­holes at New York’s Columbia Univer­sity in 2002, when Jake (Ja­son Sudeikis of the Hor­ri­ble Bosses oeu­vre) res­cues Lainey (Ali­son Brie, Trudy Camp­bell in TV’s Mad Men) from an em­bar­rass­ing sit­u­a­tion caused by her ob­ses­sion with the most bor­ing man on cam­pus. Jake and Lainey smoke some dope and lose their vir­gini­ties to­gether. As an aside, I think gen­er­ally if you are go­ing to start a film with the pro­tag­o­nists’ youth­ful back­story, you should spring the ex­tra bucks and hire some age-ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tors for the roles. Brie, who is in her early 30s, more or less pulls it off, but 40-year-old Sudeikis looks ridicu­lous.

For­tu­nately we don’t have to dwell on this be­cause the story then moves for­ward 12 years to a sex ad­dicts’ meet­ing where Jake and Lainey, who have not seen each other since that cherry-pop­ping night, both hap­pen to be present. A bit like the ass­hole thing, nei­ther seems to be a sex ad­dict.

Jake is a wom­an­iser with com­mit­ment is­sues and Lainey has re­la­tion­ships but is still stuck on the cam­pus bore, Matthew Sovochek (an en­joy­ably tense Adam Scott) who is now a gy­nae­col­o­gist and mar­ried (and a cheat).

Jake and Lainey are clearly at­tracted to each other, and have an ad­van­tage most po­ten­tial new cou­ples do not: they know the sex works. In­deed it’s a fair bet they are in love. So, what’s stop­ping them from giv­ing it a go? Nei­ther is in a com­mit­ted re­la­tion­ship (un­like Harry and Sally at var­i­ous times), has been mar­ried be­fore or has chil­dren. They live in the same city and are suc­cess­ful, so money isn’t a prob­lem. The only bar­rier to bliss, it seems, is the need for the film to go on for an­other 80 min­utes or so.

So they de­cide to be just friends — friends who have “their” restau­rant, who shop for lin­gerie to­gether, who have a safe word to quell upris­ings of the mu­tual hots and — in the film’s nadir — empty a large drink bot­tle and use it as a stand-in vagina so that he can show her how to mas­tur­bate to or­gasm. Surely with this sin­gle scene we can de­clare to­tal and ab­so­lute vic­tory for the forces of mansplain­ing.

And so it goes un­til the ut­terly pre­dictable end­ing, a sort of cin­e­matic self-im­mo­la­tion that

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