Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 29, 2015)
When I last viewed a former Saturday Night Live castmember in a movie, I didn’t enjoy it. Kristen Wiig’s Nasty Baby offered a meandering, pointless exercise in pretentiousness.
That experience didn’t taint all SNL actors, of course, so 2015’s Sleeping with Other People ended up in my player. Back in 2002, college students Jake (SNL alum Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) hook up under unusual circumstances. In present day, they reconnect when they bump into each other as a group session for people with relationship/romantic issues.
It turns out that Lainey inevitably cheats on her boyfriends, and Jake just sleeps around in general. Despite their past – and Jake’s attempts to get her into the sack – Lainey thinks they should maintain a platonic situation. We follow their relationship and see whether or not they ever embrace a more romantic path.
If you’ve seen many – or really any - romantic comedies, you know where the tale will go. The big question becomes whether or not Sleeping does enough to maintain our attention as we await its inevitable finale.
The answer is “not really”. While it remains watchable, Sleeping fails to muster enough wit, romance and charm to deliver a winning take on its genre.
Part of the problem stems from its derivative nature, as Sleeping liberally borrows from references. It makes some lifts from The Graduate nearly literal, and it takes heavily from When Harry Met Sally as well.
Man, does Sleeping echo that Rob Reiner hit. Tons of similarities arise, and these feel awfully blatant. I can’t imagine those behind Sleeping weren’t aware of how much they “borrowed” from Sally and other films.
Another concern stems from the depiction of events, as the relationships in Sleeping never feel especially true. While the movie plays matters seriously, I couldn’t help but feel reminded of They Came Together, a not-especially-good parody of rom-coms from a couple of years ago.
Sleeping embraces genre clichés in a less ironic way but it maintains the phony feel of Together, and that becomes an issue. The dialogue and interactions lack a sense of realism, so the whole thing starts to feel like unintentional parody - Sleeping just can’t maintain a realistic enough tone to get the viewer to invest.
Not that this makes it a painless experience. The movie comes with a good cast, and they deliver just enough charm to keep us mildly interested.
But that’s about the best I can say for the film. Even with its trite story, Sleeping With Other People could’ve been a decent update on the When Harry Met Sally template. Instead, it seems forced and lazy.