The Sarasota Film Festival (SFF) premiered Leslye Headland’s romantic, and very raunchy comedy “Sleeping With Other People” on Friday, April 17. I watched from my seat as I slowly but surely became the youngest member in the audience, lost in a sea of Sarasota’s elderly. They filed into the historic Sarasota Opera House, and I wondered if they knew just what kind of treat they were in for.
The movie takes place after the two main characters, Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie), impulsively lose their virginity to each other in college, and years later meet again at a support group. A spark resurfaces but they are no strangers to this game. Miserable failures in relationships have led to lives of ongoing infidelity and self-destruction, and Jake and Lainey decide to remain platonic to mutually support their recoveries.
Headland’s hysterical and raunchy follow-up to “Bachelorette” defies the romantic comedy genre by placing love into the hands of self-declared “sex addicts.” She brings cleverness and subversive humor to the screen in this silly yet captivating movie about soul mates in utter denial of their compatibility – an ironic tribute to the “men and women can’t be friends” theory from “When Harry Met Sally.”
The dynamic of the audience was a very interesting one to note. The movie was obviously aimed toward a younger crowd; one that is more familiar with today’s “hook-up culture.” Through their platonic and supportive friendship, Jake teaches Lainey how to properly masturbate by using an empty juice bottle and his fingers. The scene caused a ruckus among the older crowd; gasps and disapproving murmurs were heard in a wave across the theater. Eventually, the self-stimulation scene caused one older woman to storm out of the theater for good. To be fair, this was my least favorite scene – the idea that a man knows his way around a vagina better than does a woman? Think again, Headland. I do not buy it.
Unfortunately, I found myself laughing alone and out loud to many of the punch lines in the movie, most notably when Jake asks Lainey if she will take Molly with him and attend a kids birthday party. To me this invitation was ludicrous, outlandish and hysterical, yet no one laughed because I am fairly certain the majority of those within the theater had no idea what Molly was.
Lainey and Jake appear to be good-natured and charming people, but their characters are deep and vibrant with a damaged core, creating this imperfect character that is easy for most to relate to. As I left the theater, I listened in on amateur reviews of those who stuck around. One grey-haired and elderly woman slowly walked away with some friends and admitted she loved it as she wiped tears of laughter away with a tissue.
I applaud Headland for her work on this film. She removes the romantic varnish, unlike traditional romantic comedy, yet still captivates the hearts of those who watch it.