Monday, September 21, 2015

Sleeping with Other People

Not the movie's biggest problem, but for how specifically close in age their two characters are supposed to be - really, a maximum of one or two years apart - the age difference between Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie in real life winds up kind of distracting. She is actually the approximate age of her character (early thirties), he's about eight years older, and it really jumps out during the flashback to their college days, when she can pull it off and he has me wondering why a grad student is still in the dorms.

(Speaking of college, it was kind of weird for me how everybody referred to Columbia by name; I always say "at school" or "in college" rather than "at WPI"; am I just unusually deficient in school pride?)

I suppose seeing a few stories about how parts dry up for women quickly, with Maggie Gyllenhaal recently talking about how she was apparently considered too old to play against a man twenty years her senior. As such things go, this is probably pretty mild.

Sleeping with Other People

* * * (out of four)
Seen 20 September 2015 in AMC Boston Common #13 (first-run, DCP)

The romantic comedy genre has felt a little tapped out lately; the big American studios barely produce them any more and the independent productions like Sleeping with Other People are oddly self-aware. The trick that a filmmaker is trying to pull off when making one is to sell audiences the chemistry between a pair of potential partners but keep them "potential" as long as possible, and writer/director Leslye Headland just lays that out there without much in the way of misdirection, which means she's pretty lucky to have a cast that can make the plot-on-their-sleeves thing work.

That mainly means Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis, whose characters Lainey and Jake had a night together in college and then would not have their paths cross again for twelve years, when they wind up at the same sex-addiction meeting. They walk out of that but decide to be each other's sounding boards, though with strict rules against hooking up physically again. The trouble with this plan is that they may be perfect for each other.

Headland builds a fair number of scenes out of what are almost interrupted monologues, with one of the pair stretching out a subject and the other tossing in a line that highlights a funny bit or redirects it just a little, building to full back-and-forth banter as they go along. This isn't exclusively their domain - Jason Mantzoukas and Andrea Savage have nearly as impressive a banter game as Jake's co-worker and his wife - and that's a bit of a signal. Conversations with their significant others before their reunion strive for this rhythm and don't have it; Brie's scenes with Adam Scott as the married man Lainey can't quit are horrifically lopsided in comparison. A relationship that works, whether romantic or friendly, is pretty explicitly indicated by how well conversation flows - when to stand back, when to interrupt, the ability to say any raunchy thing going through your head but calmly raise a flag when you don't like where it's going.

Full review on EFC.

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