Monday, January 30, 2017

Sleeping With Other People

Year 9, Day 30 - 1/30/17 - Movie #2,530

BEFORE: There are still two days to go until February 1, but I've got more romance films this year than there are days in February, so I'm starting the romance topic a couple of days early.  Hey, it's not a hard and fast rule that I have to make the topic coincide exactly with the month that contains Valentine's Day.  I was really lucky to come up with a continuous chain that almost filled up January - and to think that if I had included those two Woody Allen films, I would have hit it right on the nose.  

Jason Mantzoukas carries over from "Dirty Grandpa".

THE PLOT: A good-natured womanizer and a serial cheater form a platonic relationship that helps reform them in ways, while a mutual attraction sets in.

AFTER: Also carrying over from "Dirty Grandpa" is the concept of bad behavior, the two main characters consistently misbehave here, particularly with regards to relationships.  Both keep getting involved again and again in dysfunctional relationships, or if one of them happens to be in a positive one, then they find a way to sabotage it.  Hey, at least they're aware of their shortcomings, which puts them ahead of most people, even if they're not sure WHY they're doing it.  

Of course, we in the audience have an advantage, we know why they can't succeed in relationships with other people, because we know they belong together.  That's the shorthand of romance movies, generally speaking, the two leads belong together, despite their differences or difficulties getting together.  As a trend, this goes all the way back to Tracy and Hepburn, or Bogart and Bacall, and probably even before that.  

But the classic romance film that's really evoked here, more than any other, is "When Harry Met Sally", which came out in 1989 - before text messages, before Tinder dates, before sex addiction was diagnosed.  So, it probably was time for some kind of update.  You could even call this film "When Jake Met Lainie", but for some reason that doesn't have the same ring to it.  (Seriously, they should have at least considered giving Nora Ephron a writing credit...). That isn't necessarily bad, because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or if you're going to steal, at least steal from the best. 

They really just swapped in a dumpling house in place of "Katz's Deli", and replaced lines like "the white man's overbite" with "the dirty DJ", but the main idea is the same - two friends who confide in each other over the years, and their relationship calls into question whether men and women can truly be friends, without the sex thing getting in the way.  OK, to be fair there are some major differences, like Harry and Sally started their relationship with a road trip, and the characters here start by spending a night together in the Columbia dorm, and then not seeing each other for 12 years.  

That's a bit of a narrative NITPICK POINT, I think - because when they bump into each other again, he says, "Hey, you kind of disappeared after that night..." and she says, "Yeah, I did..." and there's just NO follow-up question?  Wouldn't it be logical for him to say, "And where did you go, how did you go from medical school to becoming a teacher?"  I mean, we can sort of fill in the gaps, but why doesn't he even ask?  

The chemistry between these two is really good, but the downside to that is that we can see that they belong together long before THEY do, and yet we're still forced to watch them fail with other people before they come together themselves.  And like in "When Harry Met Sally", it almost doesn't make sense because they may know each other a bit TOO well, they know each other's hang-ups and faults and still that doesn't seem to get in the way, probably because they've spent so much time together that after all that they've said and done, the relationship is the logical next step.  

I think maybe the problem with screenplays about romance is that writers sometimes assume that there's only one path to romance - that burst of attraction that leads to interest, which leads to blazing passion, which leads to a stable, positive relationship.  That's only one way to get there - love can start with friendship, love can be encouraged by familiarity, love can function as a business relationship.  It's too limiting to think that it can only come from going on dates with strangers.  And just as important as being a good lover is being a good roommate - because if you can't share a space together, really, what chance have you got as romantic partners? 

Also starring Jason Sudeikis (last seen in "Horrible Bosses 2"), Alison Brie (last seen in "Get Hard"), Adam Scott (last seen in "Hot Tub Time Machine 2"), Amanda Peet (last seen in "The Way Way Back"),  Natasha Lyonne (last seen in "Heartburn"), Katherine Waterston (last seen in "Inherent Vice"), Adam Brody (last seen in "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World"), Andrea Savage, Marc Blucas, with cameos from Jordan Carlos, Billy Eichner (last heard in "The Penguins of Madagascar").

RATING: 6 out of 10 safe words

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