'Sleeping with Other People' Features Alison Brie, Jason Sudeikis & Way More Mansplaining Than A Single Film Really Needs
I hope you came to the theater armed with a pen and a notepad, because Sleeping with Other People has a few things to teach you. At least its lead character Jake, the chattiest of Cathys that Jason Sudeikis has ever played, has a few things to teach Alison Brie’s routinely wide-eyed Lainey. His lessons bound from subject to subject, though fall chiefly in the realm of sex, relationships, and love. He’s got modern ideas about romantic attachment and fidelity, first dates, and female masturbation, and he’s eager to serve them all up to his screen partner, substantially less weathered than he and just as eager to learn as he is to lecture.
So that’s pretty much what they do for the run of the film. Lainey runs into a slew of problems — beginning with her sustained virginity (the film begins with the two characters in college, jumping thereafter to an adulthood some 10 years down the road), then advancing to the likes of her longstanding sexual obsession with a withholding beau or her total inexperience in self-stimulation — and, for each of them, Jake has the answer. A lengthy, motorized, reference- and shtick-laden answer that bequeaths unto his porcelain compatriot a heightened understanding of adult living.
After the third or fourth time that Jake has to guide Lainey through the hills and valleys of life experience, you begin to wonder just how the young lady got through her 30-odd years without coming into any ideas of her own. Smart-as-a-whip Jake comes to the table ready with theories and verbal thought pieces, with a better understanding of the female mind, anatomy, and sociopolitical experience than any actual woman in the film seems to have.
Lainey, weather-free from a lifetime ostensibly frozen in a new brand of carbonite that is very flattering to the skin, comes to the very same table with only open ears. For Jake, she is more of a student than a partner. (And the suggestion that Sudeikis and Brie are supposed to be about the same age — an insane suggestion to anyone who puts a reasonable sum of faith in ocular logic, but one the film adheres to nonetheless — tosses out the door the older-and-wiser-instructing-the-younger motif on which the film might have otherwise hung its coat.)
The machination of such a character dynamic is not entirely without reason: Sudeikis and Brie are cast to their indomitable strengths, with the former flapping acerbic banter and the latter enveloping cheeky vulnerability. In any one scene, they make for a funny dalliance, him bouncing off the walls on the fuel of his own bravado and her anchoring fast down to earth with an affably snide reaction to whatever he’s up to. But, looking at their camaraderie on the whole, we see a string of questions and problems tossed out by Lainey and satisfied, solved, or batted away by Jake. He talks her down from panic attacks and gives her the rundown on the love game — both pithily and earnestly, and all stuff you’d think she might have figured out on her own at some turn down the line.
It gets to a point where you wonder what she’d ever do without him. Not in the terribly sweet way that you wonder that about either party of a pair who emanate a bond of love; no, it’s a question we ask pragmatically. Could Lainey have figured out any of these life lessons without Jake? Why are we so ready to assume she couldn’t, and so comfortable to watch him — armed effortlessly with a full stock — play her much-needed guide to enlightenment?
In short, what’s with all the mansplaining?
Image: Gary Sanchez Productions/IM Global (3)