The age-old question of whether or not men and women can truly be friends is addressed in a new light with Leslye Headland’s Sleeping With Other People. With a starting point in 2002–as demarcated by the playing of OKGO’s “Get Over It”–we’re introduced to Elaine a.k.a Lainey (Alison Brie), a psychotically tinged Columbia student plagued by Matthew Sobvechik (Adam Scott), who appears to be missing from his dorm room as she wails, “Are you gonna fuck me or not?” In what is possibly her first real breakout role since Trudy Campbell on Mad Men, Alison Brie shines through in neurotic glory, catching the eye of fellow student, Jake (Jason Sudeikis), who vouches for her as his guest in order to keep her from getting kicked out. As the two get to talking in his room, they both discover something they have in common: their virginity. By the end of the night, the two have decided to lose it each other, only to never see one another again–that is, until thirteen years later when they encounter at a sex addict meeting.
While Jake’s reasons for being there are more severe, Lainey’s pertain more to a specific sex addiction, the one she has to Matthew Sobvechik. So addicted to the pain of trying to be with him in a way that goes beyond just sex, she even breaks it off with her longtime boyfriend, Sam (Adam Brody)–of course, she doesn’t want it to end with him, but after he calls her a “fucking whore” in a public venue, it’s pretty much tacitly agreed that it’s all over. Her worries and fears, however, wash away whenever Matthew texts her, as though all the validation she needs lies with him. Her best friend, Kara (Natasha Lyonne), on the other hand, insists that she pursue Jake, telling her it’s a sign that she saw him again. Not one to turn down advice, Lainey goes on a date with Jake–only Jake doesn’t realize it until she specifically says that’s what it is. But by the end of it, the two have such a good time together, they decide that sex would only ruin their friendship. Thus they develop a pact centered around a safe word indicating when they’re feeling too sexually attracted to one another, “dick in mousetrap”–or simply, “mousetrap.”
As they begin to grow increasingly comfortable with one another, Lainey feels relaxed enough to explain her obsession with Matthew. As she puts it, “I guess I just thought eventually he’d choose me. And so I always chose him.” Surprisingly understanding of this explanation, Jake returns, “Little girls are told some day they’re gonna find the one. What they don’t tell you guys is that the one might be a complete fuckin’ dickhead with a boring heroin penis that turns you into a sex addict.”
And so their friendship continues, morphing into some sort of bizarre married couple dynamic minus the sex (or, considering many married couples don’t have sex, their relationship is just like one). Jake’s friend and business partner, Xander (Jason Mantzoukas), takes note of the irregular “friendship” and insists that Jake bring Lainey to his son’s birthday party so that the other moms aren’t creeped out by him like always.
Lainey, meanwhile–with the help of Jake–has gone cold turkey on Matthew, thus takes up one of the dads at the birthday party on his offer to go out to dinner after beguiling everyone with a molly-spurred dance to David Bowie’s “Modern Love.” Seeing that Lainey is never going to give in to something more than friendship, Jake decides to pursue his boss, Paula (Amanda Peet), more determinedly than before. When she finally gives in to his offer and has sex with him, she’s intrigued, rather than horrified, to hear him scream Lainey’s name when he orgasms.
While most women would run the other way as a result of Jake’s psychological issues–all stemmed from Lainey–Paula decides to date him, which works out well for Jake considering Lainey has decided to move to Michigan for med school. But, as all male and female friendships prove, love is never far behind, and ends up plaguing both of them as they try to move on with their lives. Thus, while Headland may have taken a new approach to exploring the complexities of opposite sex friendship, she couldn’t bring herself to lie to audiences by giving them a non-cliche ending.