When Jake meets Lainey the
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