Movie review: 'Seeing Other People'

MoviesEntertainmentJosh CharlesJulianne NicholsonAndy RichterJay MohrSkydiving

3 stars (out of 4)

Usually the pronouncement "I think we need to see other people," is the death knell for a relationship.

For Alice (Julianne Nicholson), it's an indicator of cold feet. As her impending marriage to TV writer Ed (Jay Mohr) inches closer, she feels inadequate in her sexual history. Of the five partners in her carnal pantheon, one was a lesbian college senior who, posing as a boy, preyed upon freshman girls. And her one night stand?

"It really didn't last a whole night," she says.

The hilarious, bracing indie feature "Seeing Other People" charts Alice and Ed's journey into the sexual unknown as they test the boundaries of their relationship.

Director Wallace Wolodarsky, who co-writes with Maya Forbes, takes a very common story and pumps it full of witty (and often obscene) exchanges in a neo-sex comedy that offers very little on-camera sex. This is a refreshing choice, and allows Wolodarsky (a former writer for "The Simpsons") to skewer his cast on moral dilemmas, sticky oral arguments and sexual crises.

"We can't stop each other from experiencing life," Alice tells her fiance, whom she's dated for five years.

"Let's go skydiving! Let's rob a bank!" responds the sensible Ed, putting the risks in proper perspective.

Curious Alice prevails, giving Ed a list of off-limits conquests before she goes down the metaphorical rabbit hole.

"Your mom? You put your mom on the list?" Ed says. Also off limits: Salma Hayek.

At first, their dalliances into the sexual fringe set fire to sex at home. Then start the predictable complications: distrust, paranoia, awkward pauses around friends.

"Seeing Other People" is one-part "Chasing Amy" and two-parts "About Last Night." There's a dash of 1988's "Casual Sex?" thrown in, and it could be argued that Wolodarsky has made a period film (read: the 1980s) set in modern times. But Wolodarsky's sensibilities remain thoroughly contemporary, and he delivers out-of-nowhere kidney-punch jokes.

Wolodarsky's ("Sorority Boys") talents clearly lie in writing, however, as "Seeing Other People's" direction ranges from the cautiously inventive to the utilitarian--as shown in his often grainy images (a staple of indie filmmaking) and pedestrian camerawork.

But whatever the film lacks in presentation, it makes up for in laughs and ensemble performances that sing. Mohr, whose best work to date was abandoned by Fox in the short-lived series "Action," grounds reliable Ed well, while still making him a sex-obsessed Pavlovian male. In Wolodarsky, Andy Richter finally finds a director who understands his understated comic talents, and Josh Charles ("Sports Night") sinks his teeth into the misogynistic, emotionally unstable divorced guy allergic to his own cats.

As Alice, Nicholson shines. The former "Ally McBealer" doesn't fit the Hollywood cookie cutter, with her pronounced freckles and teeth free of cosmetic surgery, and that's part of her appeal. On screen, she's an angelic oddity--funny, human, and unexpectedly touching. Just like "Seeing Other People."

"Seeing Other People"
Directed by Wallace Wolodarsky; screenplay by Maya Forbes and Wolodarsky; photographed by Mark Doering-Powell; production design by Dan Butts; music by Alan Elliott; edited by Stewart Schill; produced by Gavin Polone. A Lantern Lane Entertainment Ltd. release; opens Friday, May 7. Running time: 1:30. MPAA rating: R (strong sexual content, language and some drug material).
Ed - Jay Mohr
Alice - Julianne Nicholson
Claire - Lauren Graham
Peter - Bryan Cranston
Lou - Josh Charles
Carl - Andy Richter

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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