Enter the non-com.
“Sleeping With Other People” is somewhat similar in tone and content to “Trainwreck,” and equally as smart and funny as the Amy Schumer summer hit. It’s a non-com rom-com about two attractive, noncommittal people who expend an awful lot of emotional energy on remaining friends-just-friends-no-really-we’re-just-friends, even though it’s perfectly obvious they should be together.
They’re so self-aware, it’s a bit of an upset neither one says, “Hey, we’re in a modern-day ‘When Harry Met Sally…’!”
That we’re genuinely unsure of whether they ever WILL wind up together is a tribute to the offbeat and razor-sharp script from Leslye Headland, who nimbly directs a cast of characters so hilarious and so likable you just want to give them all a hug and thank ’em for sharing a slice of their lives.
Dryly funny and effortlessly natural as ever, Jason Sudeikis gives one of the best performances of his career as Jake, who first encounters the lovely and bright but just a little bit ditsy Lainey (the wonderful Alison Brie) when they’re both Columbia undergrads.
After a meet-cute dorm encounter, they lose their virginity to each other but quickly part ways.
Cue the graphic saying, “12 YEARS LATER.” Having lost touch, Jake and Lainey run into each other — at a 12-step meeting for sexual compulsives.
Jake freely admits he’s a womanizing cad whose go-to method of breaking up with a girlfriend is to cheat on her and get caught. He’s at the meeting because his latest significant other insisted he go. (The relationship is doomed anyway.)
Lainey isn’t really a sexual addict either. She’s hopelessly obsessed with Adam Scott’s Matthew, a nerdy OB/GYN who keeps Lainey in the bullpen as a side relationship.
Jake and Lainey make a pact of sorts: They’ll deny the obvious sexual chemistry between them and eschew romance, because after all, that’s never gonna last, what with Jake’s wandering eye and Lainey’s obsession with Matthew. Why not go for a lasting friendship in which they can share all their stories and secrets and little weirdo habits?
Director Headland sprinkles in some nice touches, e.g., a perfectly realized vignette in which Jake mentions a woman he slept with — and we cut to the woman reciting the texts she’s sending to Jake: everything from flirty come-ons to impatient demands to cutesy GIFs. It’s so spot-on, and it’s one of the funniest scenes of the year.
Two other memorable set pieces: Jake uses a plastic bottle as a teaching tool as he explains to Lainey what she’s missing out by not, um, taking care of her own business, and a quite-high Lainey teaches kids to dance to “Modern Love” at a birthday party. In less accomplished hands, this material would have seemed dark and weird and off-base. Here, it’s dark and weird — and somehow appropriate.
Jason Mantzoukas and Andrea Savage are fantastic as the obligatory married couple on the sidelines, who are miles funnier and more interesting than the usual obligatory married couple on the sidelines. (Stick around for the closing credits, when these two polished comic veterans get a bonus chance to shine, and knock it out of the park.)
The last few scenes of “Sleeping With Other People” feel just a little bit forced, but mostly because we’ve been spoiled by the cheerfully bent and twisted hard-R shenanigans that brought us here. That mild disappointment aside, Sudeikis and Brie make for one of the most endearing pairings of the year, and Headland has delivered one of my favorite romantic comedies in recent memory.
IFC Films presents a film written and directed by Leslye Headland. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated R (for strong sexual content, language including sexual references, and some drug use). Available on demand and opening Friday at local theaters.