Jay Mohr as Ed
Julianne Nicholson as Alice
Lauren Graham as Claire
Bryan Cranston as Peter
Josh Charles as Lou
Andy Richter as Carl
Matthew Davis as Donald
Jill Ritchie as Sandy
Helen Slater as Penelope
Nicole Marie Lenz as Miranda
Jonathan Davis as Ricky
Mike Faiola as Tim
Ed and Alice (Jay Mohr, Julianne Nicholson) have been together for five years, but after they get engaged, Alice gets cold feet because she hasn’t had enough experience with other sex partners. At her request, they agree to see other people for a few months before their wedding. Ed is apprehensive about her sleeping with other men, but given the opportunity to sleep with other women, he reluctantly agrees. As the experiment progresses, the rift between them grows, and their friends, who aren’t exactly role models in the relationship department, need to step in before the wedding is called off.
Seeing Other People isn’t the most inventive or innovative comedy to come around the bend, as its high concept premise could easily be used in a Hollywood movie with big name stars. What makes it different and refreshing is that it offers a more realistic view of relationships and fidelity, thanks to the sharp script by the husband and wife writing team of director Wally Wolodarsky and Maya Fobes. With a long history in television, their first collaboration is a funny, touching and often raunchy romantic comedy that will appeal to men and women alike.
The first thing that strikes you is how liberated Alice is for suggesting the forced infidelities, and the way that she and Ed fulfill their deal makes for an amusing and entertaining study about human nature. Alice ends up seeing just one other guy, a good-looking contractor who tries to be the perfect boyfriend, while Ed has many meaningless liaisons with actresses and other bimbos. It doesn’t take long for them to realize how poorly their sabbatical is going, although not before a number of hilarious and awkward situations like the two of them sitting next to each other in a restaurant with their dates. From there, things just go from bad to worse, and while it is pretty easy to figure out where things end up, there are enough surprises and twists to keep things fresh.
Jay Mohr and Julianne Nicholson are wonderful as an on-screen couple. The film is fairly even-handed in making them both likeable though imperfect in their decisions. At times, you feel bad for each of them, but the despicable things they do to each other make them equally to blame when things fall apart. They play so well off each other that you’re right there with their friends, hoping that they’ll figure out how dumb they are acting, and rooting for them to get back together.
Despite all of the television connections, the humor in Seeing Other People is more “Scrubs” than “Friends”, with some of the more subtle and irreverent jokes earning bigger laughs than those surrounding the main premise. The crazy friends and relatives of Ed and Alice tend to steal the show with some of the movie’s biggest laughs. Lauren Graham of “The Gilmore Girls” is wonderful as Alice’s prudish executive sister, Claire, living vicariously through Alice’s sexual experiment, and giving a deadpan deliver that makes every line funny. Bryan Cranston from “Malcolm in the Middle” is almost unrecognizable as her sleazy Brit husband who hopes to become one of Alice’s pre-marriage “experiments”. All he has to do to get laughs is show up in a gaudy bathrobe or in underwear that leaves little to the imagination. Ed’s best friends are played by Josh Charles from “Sports Night” and Andy Richter. Charles is better as the “bad friend”, egging Ed on to more sexual conquests even while his own marriage falls apart, while Richter’s nice guy sidekick role is not much of a departure. The scenes between Graham, Cranston and Charles are hilarious.
That said, too many ideas and gags are thrown into the mix towards the end of the movie, diluting the focus of the story. Ed’s involvement with a much younger co-ed leads to some insanely outlandish situations that quell some of the credibility the movie had built up. Also, Andy Richter’s character gets a bit more attention with a needless side story about his involvement with a psychotic single mother, played up for big laughs from Helen “Supergirl” Slater. There seems little point to this story, and it would have worked better as a separate movie.
The entire movie could have been tightened up with some editing, but since it’s only ninety minutes long, it would have left them with a very short movie. Then again, all of the characters work so well together that you have to wonder whether this would have worked better as the pilot for an HBO sitcom.
The Bottom Line:
Seeing Other People is a surprisingly warm and funny romantic comedy in the vein of HBO sitcoms like “Sex and the City” or “The Mind of the Married Man’”. Its honesty with the characters and situations makes it one of the better independent romantic comedies since Kissing Jessica Stein. Although not perfect by any means, it’s a great date movie for anyone in a relationship who wants to share a bit of off-kilter sexual humor with their significant other. Well worth seeking out.
Seeing Other People opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, May 7.