Leslye Headland’s Sleeping With Other People is a Photoshop copy of When Harry Met Sally… clone-stamped and saturated. Like Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan before them, platonic-ish Manhattanites Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) stroll through Central Park, goof off in electronics stores, and stay up late chatting in a split-screen. (Via text, not landline.)
By the time Lainey’s sassy best friend (Natasha Lyonne) intones, “Men and women can’t be friends,” Headland has made a compelling case for pausing her film to rewatch the original. Instead of commitment-phobes and clean freaks, Jake and Lainey are cranked-up crazies: He’s a sex addict; she’s a stalker who’s been fixated on the same wan creep since college (Adam Scott, perfectly affectless). In a flashback, Jake first meets Lainey in the dorm bashing her obsession’s door.
They have an electric one-night stand, then reconnect in the present at a support group for emotional screw-ups. Headland has a talent for lunatic danger. In a fantastic middle-of-the-street argument, Jake convinces a babe it’s OK he boned her best friend, all while speeding cars clip his ankles — the stunt is a Buster Keaton–worthy near-miss, if Buster Keaton were a cad. But when Jake and Lainey start making cow eyes at each other, the script sands off their prickles and the movie collapses.
With no conflict except their vow to stay chaste — at least, with each other — Headland’s film might have been more engaging if it were about its supporting characters: Lyonne’s brassy lesbian, a terrific turn by Amanda Peet as a hard-to-seduce CEO, and Jason Mantzoukas and Andrea Savage as Jake’s married friends who close the film with a riff that steals the movie at the buzzer.
Sleeping With Other People
Written and directed by Leslye Headland
Opens September 11, IFC Center