When the credit “Produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell” appears early in Sleeping with Other People, the audience could be forgiven for making a certain assumption about the film. After all, these are the guys who made raunchy, bro-culture comedies like Anchorman and Talladega Nights, so surely we’re in for a broad, testosterone crazed laugh fest. If movies of that ilk aren’t really your cup of tea, you might be surprised by how much deeper and sweeter ‘s feature truly is. It’s so good it might just avert the death knell of the romantic comedy.
The familiar clichés are there: two people (Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie) who are clearly perfect for each other find a semi-contrived reason to stay platonic: they’re both borderline sex and love addicts with a history of using and discarding partners (or being discarded). New York City is “a character” in the movie, with its scenes set variously on a ferry, in Central Park, or in a hole in the wall dumpling joint. Both are involved with attractive people who are obviously wrong for them: Brie with Adam Scott‘s philandering gynecologist, Sudeikis with Amanda Peet’s high powered business woman.
Even the raunchy/sweet combo has been well honed in movies ranging from American Pie to Knocked Up. But Sleeping with Other People transcends those comparisons by being so authentic and heartfelt. The frank scenes and discussions of sex are refreshing and grounded in believable relationships, so they always feel organic to the story. Even the more flamboyant moments-- a gay sex addict’s confessions about his filthiest exploits at a 12 step meeting, a spurned woman’s increasingly clingy text messages delivered right at the camera—add variety without pushing the film too far into camp. Certainly the performances contribute greatly to the movie’s success. The entire cast is solid, with Sudeikis and Brie’s lived-in, immensely likable performances and palpable chemistry holding Sleeping’s center.
All rom coms essentially have to pull off a “trick,” allowing us to suspend our disbelief that two soul mates would take so long to figure out what we the audience have known from the start. Sleeping with Other People accomplishes this with such panache, humor, and genuine warmth that it emerges not only as a great comedy but a great movie, period.