Leslye Headland’s ‘Sleeping With Other People’ surprised even her

11 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Sleeping With Other People’ review: The flawed deserve love too.

Leslye Headland wears her commitment to filmmaking on her sleeve — or at least on her forearms. Alison Brie’s been dishing out a ton of relationship advice of late along the promo trail for her new film Sleeping With Other People, in which the Community star and SNL alum Jason Sudeikis play relationship-phobic New Yorkers who agree to stay platonic because they can’t see that they’re perfect for each other—a thoroughly modern millennial romantic comedy billed as “When Harry Met Sally, for assholes.” “[Jason] and I were just joking about it because, you know, we’re not dating experts, just because we did this movie about people who fall in love,” Brie laughed during a chat with The Daily Beast on the eve of Sleeping’s debut. “It doesn’t mean we know everything about love,” said Brie, who last month announced her engagement to actor Dave Franco. “Leslye wrote it!Two people with issues around sex become buddies in Leslye Headland’s romantic comedy “Sleeping With Other People.” This scene features Alison Brie as Lanie, a woman sexually obsessed with Matthew (Adam Scott).Writer-director Leslye Headland makes thoroughly modern romantic comedies that capture all the anarchy and agony of 21st-century love and its attendant rituals.

It’s a standard rom-com contrivance, stretched past the breaking point by writer-director Leslye Headland’s resolve to inject the genre with a sex-forward edginess. One obvious problem is that virginity, marriage and children are no longer necessarily compulsory, which has complicated the happily-ever-after thing. Her feature debut, “Bachelorette,” depicted a wild and woolly pre-wedding bacchanal of party hardy mean girls, which dived into the complications of female friendship and competition.

Leslye was able to shift seamlessly from a dramatic tone to a comedic tone, even in the same scene.” The movie follows Brie and Jason Sudeikis‘ characters, serial cheaters who can’t hold down a relationship, who meet 12 years after a one-night stand. But I do think that we’ve been giving some pretty good advice!” “Leslye” is writer-director Leslye Headland, who followed up her acclaimed 2013 raunchy, warts-and-all ladybro comedy Bachelorette with a raunchy, warts-and-all spin on a once-bountiful genre the studios have long forgotten how to make: The rom-com.

Despite a mutual attraction, the two vow to remain just friends and help each other with their monogamy issues. “I think it has a lot to do with the very candid dialogue,” Brie said. “These characters are so frank in the way that they talk about sex and relationships and especially having people of the opposite sex having those conversations together is a very current thing. In Headland’s world, would-be lovers Lainey (Brie) and Jake (Sudeikis) first meet as Columbia University collegemates who one night, in the aughts, lose their v-cards together in a messy, desperate rooftop fling. I wanted to write a romance that touched on some of the darker territories of love, romance and relationships without dwelling on those darker territories. Though the leads lend charm and comic timing to the unpersuasive material, it would take a ground-up rewrite to make the fate of their characters matter. Fast forward a dozen years and they’ve grown into New Yorkers still trapped by their own intimacy issues: Lainey is an anxiety-ridden serial cheater who can’t help but keep banging the manipulative (and engaged) doctor she’s been obsessed with since college, and Jake is a serial womanizer who’d rather sleep with your sister than admit he’s just not that into you. “I got an email at 10 o’clock at night from my agent saying, ‘The lead actress dropped out of this movie, it’s written by Leslye Headland and she’s going to direct it, Jason Sudeikis is attached—and she’s only in town for one more day, so read it tonight and if you like it we’ll set up a meeting tomorrow,’” Brie recalled. “I was about to go to bed and I said, ‘Eh, I’ll read ten pages and see how I feel’… and then I couldn’t put it down.” Gone are the days of bubbly Meg Ryan meet-cutes and hapless Katherine Heigl histrionics; Lainey is, to put it simply, refreshingly screwed up as far as romantic anti-heroines go.

Brie was there with fiance Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan made an appearance, and “The League” co-stars Nick Kroll and Katie Aselton came out to support Jason Mantzoukas. Playing Lainey’s toxic relationship with a cold fish gynecologist (Adam Scott) like a crippling addiction, Brie takes Lainey through dark and tortured terrain. The encounter is a virginity-vanquishing one for his Jake and Brie’s Lainey, and it inexplicably sends them on their separate ways until they meet cute again, 12 years later.

Like a lot of American independent-movie characters created on a budget, Lainey and Jake do a lot of sharing, often in medium close-up; like too many of those characters, they also yak as if they’ve spent years on the couch. Having lost their virginity to each other during a college tryst, they reconnect some 12-odd years later at a sex addicts meeting (led by an outlandish Billy Eichner). The two of them become friends, emotionally intimate with each other while attempting to avoid anything physical so their past behaviors won’t mess things up.

By keeping their budding friendship nonsexual, it eliminates the chance for those bad habits they’ve acquired to creep in, but has the unintended effect of creating an environment where true intimacy can flourish. But it’s written in a way that’s exploring why this character is addicted to this guy, why she’s in love with him, what she gets from the sex, and how emotional it is rather than just surface gratification—there’s a darker need at play. Their self-imposed stint as besties, albeit the sort who devise a safe word to defuse sexual tension, is as unconvincing as the movie’s quirky posturing, all while in desperate pursuit of a wholly conventional — and predictable — outcome. We won’t be killing ourselves the whole time in some dark sexual fantasy.” “I spent most of the shooting process living in this highly sensitive, emotionally fragile place, and it wasn’t until the first time I saw the movie fully cut together at Sundance that I realized, oh, it’s actually much more accessible than I thought!

I thought, ‘This is a cool indie dramedy about relationships and sex.’ ” Sudeikis, star of mainstream comedies such as “We’re the Millers,” was attracted to the directness of his part. Sudeikis joke through this foundational exchange, as they do throughout so much of the movie, with racing patter, some nudge-nudge, wink-wink and not a trace of believable feeling.

These characters have enough dating drama to deal with without having to swipe left and right and sext strangers. “It’s a story about two people who don’t think that they’re worthy of real love, who don’t think that they’re capable of figuring out how to do that,” said Brie. “They don’t know how to get out of their own way… and helping each other helps them figure out how to do that.” The 34-year-old Headland’s new film is the follow-up to her 2012 debut feature “Bachelorette,” which starred Kirsten Dunst, Lizzie Caplan and Rebel Wilson and was an adaptation of her own stage play. Headland has a concept for a latter-day screwball comedy — two romantically challenged friends whose hang-ups create a roadblock to coupledom — but she doesn’t have the jokes or the emotionally textured characters that can fill in that conceit.

That film is now widely seen as a prototype success for new hybrid models of distribution for independent films, finding an audience largely through video-on-demand. There’s a profound anxiety about heteronormative monogamous relationships and marriage in her films that eventually works itself out — often in very traditional fashion, but not without the chaos of rebellion first. With its caustic look at female friendship, bad behavior and the culture surrounding weddings, “Bachelorette” seemed to follow in the slipstream of success after the breakthrough “Bridesmaids.” For Headland, that unintended connection proved dispiriting. “When you sideline somebody’s success, make it part of a trend, it becomes so devastating to the artist, and I think that’s why it became depressing to me,” Headland said. “My film wasn’t respected in and of itself. In the 1930s and ’40s screwballs that the philosopher Stanley Cavell calls the comedies of remarriage, men and women trade insults and seductive looks as they work through what it means to be modern.

Sudeikis is spot on as the motor-mouthed, charming jerk womanizer you just can’t help but love, and the supporting cast includes Jason Mantzoukas, Andrea Savage, Amanda Peet, Adam Brody and Natasha Lyonne, who rip into the riffs and joke delivery. As a director, Headland embraces the camera as a tool to enhance the story, particularly Lainey’s inner experience: a swirling, vertiginous camera mimics the head spin of running into an ex, while a heart-pounding chase puts us in her shoes. Addressing the larger issue of barriers to female filmmakers working on projects not typically thought of as being for female audiences, she said, “That’s what I think the problem is, not so much that I’m treated in some different way but that I’m seen as somebody that wouldn’t be interested in that.

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