RomComs really haven’t changed much since the 30s. Horror films have, action films certainly have, drama has evolved in a million directions, and myriad sub-genres exist in all those forms – but RomComs still follow a template set by Bringing Up Baby and its ilk. Even the settings exhibit little variance; why set one in, say, Dubrovnik when you can set it in New York?
Sleeping With Other People, the second feature directed by Leslye Headland (Bachelorette), does what modern RomComs do in order to feel fresh: it allows sex into the equation. When Doris Day ruled the format in the 50s and 60s, there was no real need for any external conflict keeping the leads apart outside of the desire of the female to maintain her virginity (which was inherently implied) until the final reel. She had to decide she liked the guy enough to have sex with him; he had to convince her to marry him, so he could bonk her. That was all you needed.
Now, we assume our heroine has had sex before she’s met our hero. Sleeping With Other People takes this concept and front-loads it, making them both sex addicts; this frees it up to then continue down an extremely familiar path. You see it all coming a mile away, as you do with every damn RomCom.
What we’re left with, then, to get us through, is dialogue, which is generally sparkling, and chemistry, which is massive: Alison Brie (Trudy Campbell on Mad Men) and Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses) have it in spades. All of their scenes (except the shmaltzy ones, of which there are a couple too many) are funny and warm, and their dialogue, cascading from both their mouths so naturally that it feels improvised (and may well have been at any given moment), is sometimes as off-beat as real life. They are both excellent, and deserved a movie just a little bit bolder than this one, which, to its discredit, remains shackled to a template that could seriously use an update. Jason Mantzoukas, Natasha Lyonne and Amanda Peet do their usual party tricks, but Adam Scott, in a small role, does something new, and every scene he’s in is a breath of fresh air. The whole thing is horribly conventional while still being charming and relatively entertaining, which, unfortunately, makes it way above average in this rusting, snoozing genre.