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Seeing Other People

D: Wally Wolodarsky / 90m

Cast: Jay Mohr, Julianne Nicholson, Josh Charles, Andy Richter, Lauren Graham, Bryan Cranston, Matthew Davis, Helen Slater

Seeing Other People begins with Ed (Mohr) and Alice (Nicholson) head over heels in love and recently engaged.  Everything is going well… until Alice spies one of her friends having sex with a waiter at their engagement party.  This leads to Alice wondering if her relationship with Ed would be stronger if they were able to sleep with other people before they get married, in a kind of “let’s get it out of our systems” kind of way.  Alice also believes that she has missed out on a wider range of sexual experiences, and feels a little disadvantaged.  Ed is initially reluctant but agrees to go ahead with Alice’s plan, and they both begin to date other people.

At first, it all goes smoothly, with Alice seeing, but not sleeping with, Donald (Davis), and Ed also finding it difficult to actually have sex with someone else.  Their own sex life improves as a result, but soon Alice’s intimacy with Donald becomes a wedge that drives them apart.  Alice and Ed’s growing estrangement has a knock-on effect on Alice’s sister, Claire (Graham) and her husband, Peter (Cranston). Both unhappy with their marriage, they begin to search for their own fulfilment, using Ed and Alice’s example as either a guide or a warning of how to proceed.  Meanwhile, Alice and Ed’s friend, Carl (Richter) is so lovelorn he doesn’t believe he will ever find the woman of his dreams.  It’s only when he meets Penelope (Slater) that he begins to believe otherwise.  What follows for all is a somewhat bittersweet look at the perils of getting what you wish for.

Seeing Other People - scene

Seeing Other People starts off well, and once you get past the basic implausibility of the idea that two committed people would deflect to such a course of action – and the scene in which Alice convinces Ed her plan will work struggles to maintain a real sense of “this could happen” – there’s a certain amount of fun in trying to work out how things will progress, and what the eventual outcome will be.  Partly this is because the script by husband and wife team Wolodarsky and Maya Forbes shies away from the standard rom-com tropes and tries hard to make the situations its leading characters find themselves in as difficult to extract themselves from as possible.  It also creates an environment where the way each character expresses him- or herself is rarely pain-free, but is equally humorous at the same time.  This is a difficult juggling act, and Wolodarksy gets it right most of the time (he also contributes a funny cameo as a pushy salesman).

He’s helped by an enthusiastic cast led by Mohr and Nicholson.  Mohr has a boyish vulnerability that is pushed to the fore here, while Nicholson’s gamine appearance underscores Alice’s naïve willingness to put her relationship with Ed in jeopardy.  The supporting cast shine too, with Graham and Cranston on great form as a warring couple whose dislike of each other borders on the pathological.  On a warmer front, the developing relationship between Carl and Penelope is handled sweetly without it becoming too saccharine.

On the production side, the photography by Mark Doering-Powell matches the main characters’ moods throughout, while the music – the usual mix of contemporary songs and original score – highlights each prevailing mood to good effect.  Wolodarsky directs with a great eye for the foibles of modern relationships, and manages his cast, and the material, with aplomb.

Rating: 7/10 – an adroit romantic drama that overcomes the absurdity of its central premise by focusing instead on the pros and cons of getting what you want… and regretting it; well-acted and with a script that heads off predictability with ease.

Originally posted on thedullwoodexperiment website.