The product of an experimental collaboration among several screenwriters, SLEEP WITH ME is a pleasant, innocuous romantic comedy that is surprisingly coherent considering its origins.
In a prologue, Joe (Eric Stoltz) proposes to longtime girlfriend Sarah (Meg Tilly) while on a vacation drive through New Mexico with mutual friend and perpetual third wheel Frank (Craig Shaffer). The rest of the film unfolds at a series of six parties. First, at the rehearsal dinner, Joe gets
drunk, and Sarah takes a walk on the beach with Frank. She confesses that she almost "went after" Frank and suggests that if she had, the three would nevertheless have stayed friends in the end. She kisses him, and then laughs: "See?" Next, at the regular Tuesday poker game a few weeks later,
Frank and Joe get into a showdown; tempers flair and Joe stalks out. At a pool party three weeks later, Frank runs into Sarah again while he's filming a video; she turns the camera on him, and he confesses to carrying a torch for her since college, before she met Joe.
Later, Frank brings an old girlfriend, Marianne (Vanessa Angel), to a dinner party with Duane and Deborah (Todd Field and Susan Traylor); Joe and Sarah are also invited. Marianne flirts with Joe, prompting a jealous response from Sarah, which in turn coaxes Frank into declaring his love for her.
He and Joe nearly come to blows. Neither Frank nor Joe shows up at the next poker game; instead, Nigel (Thomas Gibson) brings two female coworkers, Athena and Lauren (Parker Posey and singer-songwriter Joey Lauren Adams), who wreak havoc on the male bonding ritual. When Nigel invites everyone
except Frank to a soiree for his mother-in-law (June Lockhart in a delightful cameo), Frank crashes, and an enraged Joe leaves with Athena. Frank and Sarah have sex at last, while Joe somehow manages to refrain from sleeping with Athena. Finally, at a celebration for Duane (who's sold a film
script), Frank crashes again, sneaking into a bathroom with Sarah to plead with her to leave Joe. Joe surprises Frank back at his car; they share a drink before arguing over Sarah. Joe demands that she choose. She chooses neither, driving off but stopping at the light so Joe can run after her.
Frank simply runs.
The unusual device behind this otherwise unremarkable fluff is that each of the six writers--including Joe Keenan, Neal Jimenez (THE WATERDANCE), Roger Hedden (BODIES, REST & MOTION), and director Rory Kelly himself--wrote one of the six sequences independently; Kelly connects the scenes with
captions that elide the gaps and comment sarcastically on the story. The experiment, reminiscent of the Surrealist parlor game called "The Exquisite Corpse," has precisely the results one would expect: characters are only vaguely sketched and the tone and dialogue are wildly uneven. At its best,
it's intelligent, funny, and persuasive; at its worst, it's embarrassingly amateurish, like an overlong one-joke sketch on "Saturday Night Live." Because the form virtually precludes a real ending, the conclusion is unsatisfying and empty.
Still, the performances are solid. Tilly, whose role suffers most in the transitions, does her best to contend with a character that ranges arbitrarily from strongly centered to incomprehensibly flaky (it's no coincidence that all the writers are men.) The supporting cast is uniformly
delightful: standouts include dour Field, Dean Cameron as hypercritical Leo, and the succulent Posey, who upstages everyone, especially when satirizing macho posturing.
The film is essentially a vanity project by a SoCal indie film clique, and it's predicated on the writers' familiarity with each other's lives and other inside jokes, some of which don't translate all that well. One that does is the now infamous cameo by enfant terrible Quentin Tarantino, who
deconstructs TOP GUN--convincingly--as a homoerotic parable. (Profanity, nudity, sexual situations, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: The product of an experimental collaboration among several screenwriters, SLEEP WITH ME is a pleasant, innocuous romantic comedy that is surprisingly coherent considering its origins. In a prologue, Joe (Eric Stoltz) proposes to longtime girlfriend Sara… (more)