The 2015 Indy Film Festival kicks off at the Indianapolis Museum of Art with an opening night screening of writer/director Leslye Headland's IFC Films release Sleeping With Other People, a film that may very well mark one of Indy Film Fest's most satisfying and successful opening night films.
The film centers around two serial cheaters, Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis), who find themselves reconnected twelve years after a one-night stand in college. Once reconnected, the two discover that they share a common trait - a complete inability to be monogamous that has led to twelve years of relationship failures. The two become determined to remain friends despite their attraction, but doing so may be easier said than done.
Screening on the night before Amy Schumer's bold and transparent new kinda sorta rom-com Trainwreck opens nationwide, Sleeping With Other People is yet another example of a film that chooses authenticity over overstylized Hollywood drivel. Sleeping With Other People doesn't necessarily have anything new to say - it's how Headland says it all that makes the film such an absolute delight from beginning to end. In some ways, I get the feeling that Sleeping With Other People is the kind of film that Schumer could have made if she'd have worked with a female director and if she wasn't still so afraid of showing those real emotions on the big screen.
Headland isn't afraid of those emotions as a writer/director. She's big and bold and brave and funny and sincere and not even a little hesitant to completely go after the messiness of relationships. Lainey and Jake reconnect, somewhat appropriately, at a sex addiction support group and you can almost immediately feel between them a sense of ease and understanding. They resist the urge that they always seem to have, though they've lived it out differently. Jake is a serial womanizer and master at getting anyone he wants and making them go away anytime he wants. Lainey, on the other hand, is obsessed with Matthew (Adam Scott), an OB/GYN with a fiance' (Inherent Vice's Katherine Waterston) who doesn't seem to so much lead Lainey on as just sort of keep her there on the fringes of a relationship.
Brie has always been an underappreciated actress, mostly known for her work on Community and Mad Men. Headland seems to have tapped into the full scope of Brie's ability here and Brie makes the most of it. Brie's Lainey is a whirlwind, whether she's serving up drug-fueled dance lessons to nine-year-olds or some of the film's messiest and most brilliantly transparent scenes. Brie masters the film's little moments, the minute details of true sensuality and the little looks that communicate everything between two human beings.
Sudeikis, as well, has seemingly always been on the fringes of stardom. Sleeping With Other People gives him a chance to really shine alongside Brie. The performance here seems effortless but, of course, it's not. Sudeikis is funny yet authentic, grounded yet off-kilter. It's a tremendous performance and one can only hope it leads to more opportunities for Sudeikis to show up front-and-center. Andrea Savage and Jason Mantzoukas are solid in supporting roles as Jason's friends, both being given ample opportunities to really shine here by Headland's richly developed and balanced script.
Sleeping With Other People is far more of a meaningful film than you might guess, though it's not particularly assertive about expressing that meaningful foundation. Headland serves up the laughs, the naughtiness and the edgy humor, but she also serves up powerful insights that will have you thinking long after you've left your seat. The film is so effective that you can't help but be glad that Indy Film Fest screened it as an opening night film, because I really can't imagine wanting to see another film for a little while after watching it.
Yeah, I wanted to linger with it.
Headland rather masterfully portrays the not so attractive transparencies of love and relationship and how it can all be so incredibly difficult yet is so incredibly necessary. We need each other through that messiness. Headland's dialogue is honest and natural, while the film is beautifully cast down to the minor players.
If you missed it at Indy Film Fest tonight, rest easy as the film will be opening in limited nationwide release with indie distributor IFC Films in the very near future. It will be back to Indy we've been reassured. Make sure you catch it and make sure you visit the Indy Film Fest website to begin planning for the next week of screenings.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic