At least that’s the case according to Sleeping with Other People starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie. The pair plays two college friends who lost touch after losing their virginities to each other. They reconnect over a decade later when they run into each other at a sexaholics anonymous meeting. Despite overwhelming urges on both sides, they agree to a purely platonic relationship.
One can’t help but notice that 25 years after “When Harry Met Sally,” we are still debating whether men and women who are attracted to each other can remain friends. The answer (spoiler alert) is still apparently no. However, it’s not just this dynamic that makes this film feel like a throwback to 90’s rom coms of Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan. The film’s claims about monogamy and promiscuity also feel a bit dated in a post Dan Savage world.
Sudeikis and Brie just can’t seem to stop cheating on whomever they’re currently dating. For Sudeikis this results from a fear of heartbreak. In Brie’s case, she’s still hung up on a guy who’s engaged, hoping that he’ll eventually choose her. In a desperate move, they join sex addicts meetings. However, as the movie plays out, we’re shown that they’re not actually addicted to sex.
You see, in this story, infidelity is your body telling you that you’re in the wrong relationship. The implication is that you’ll stop sleeping around and/or cheating when you meet the right person. The possibility of ethical non-monogamy isn’t even considered. Given how fashionable open relationships are these days, you’d think the movie would at least bring up this possibility. Instead the movie claims that once you find the right person, all will be faithful and well. It would have been more unique if Sleeping with Other People addressed the other side of the coin. What if you meet the right person, but your biological urges still make you desire other people? You know, like in real life. After all, novelty is a hell of a drug.
Something else also stands out as a bit off. In real life, Sudeikis is 40 and Brie is 32, while in the movie they are the same age. Eight years is not a major difference especially if you use the divide by two and add 7 rule, but the difference is noticeable. During the scenes when the sexual tension was absent, I would lapse into thinking that the characters were more siblings than prospective lovers. Which then made me wonder if anyone has ever made comedy about incest? Is such a thing even possible? Either way, that would have been a more intriguing topic than the cliché ridden “Sleeping with Other People.”
Nevertheless, all is not hopeless in the world of Sleeping with Other People. There are lots of great gags. And the movie doesn’t sag as much in the second and third acts that’s typical of this genre (I’m pointing the finger at you Trainwreck).
In addition, the ending feels a lot more earned. After all, Sudeikis and Brie did successfully survive their platonic agreement. And given the nature of their relationship, they were able to be totally honest with each including showing the worst of themselves like panic attacks and drug trips. In the end, they’ve actually built a more honest foundation for their relationship than most of us ever do. Unlike those characters, we usually start out by putting our best foot forward and often times pretending to be something we’re not. Hopefully it’s only about the little things, but sometimes it’s big things too. Then what happens when you fall in love with someone who’s supposedly smoothed out all their rough edges and they’ve fallen in love with the person you’re pretending to be? Since Sudeikis and Brie never have this problem, the odds of them staying together are actually pretty good. A good lesson for a rom-com.