Is it possible to have a frothy romantic sex comedy with characters that have very few redeeming features? I guess "The People I've Slept With" makes the case that it is, indeed, possible. But is it prudent? Attempting to be a pleasing romp, the film presents two lead characters that I did not like at all. That's fine in some cases, I appreciate an antihero or jerk as much as the next guy (probably more). In this type of comedy, however, you're supposed to be charmed and amused by the lead's antics and I simply found them distasteful and insufferable. With a plot straight out of a film two decades ago, "The People I've Slept With" highlights a world of irresponsibility and promiscuity. Strangely, the most traumatic thing that may happen in this life of meaningless and random sexual encounters is an unwanted pregnancy (okay, maybe the plot is from 30 years ago). Of course, life lessons are to be learned as selfishness gives way to elements of maturity--but by that time, this was already a lost cause for me. As I didn't like the principles, I didn't much care about their journey and the slight redemption was purely by necessity, not by any great character insight.
Karin Anna Cheung plays the lead and when she discovers that she's got a bun in the oven, she must uncover which of her sexual encounters is responsible. Enlisting the help of her equally self-involved gay pal (Wilson Cruz), there is much hilarity as the two condescendingly judge the less than ideal candidates. With Cruz, who is cheating in his own relationship, the duo of losers act as if they are the prize to be won in any scenario. Ironically, Archie Kao, Randall Park and Rane Jameson are all far more appealing than our main characters. Kao is Cheung's primary suitor, a charming politician that defies all conventional stereotypes. Why this successful, attractive, intelligent and wealthy suitor would fall for our promiscuous booty call is a bit mystifying. Park plays a real object of derision to our sniping leads because he's boring. But he pursues Cheung with a relentless hilarity that provides the film's comic highpoints. And Jameson is sweetness and calm as he puts up with Cruz's wolfish ways. All three deserve much better than to be saddled with either Cheung or Cruz.
Performance-wise, Cheung seems a capable and appealing actress and I've followed Cruz since "My So-Called Life." It is the screenplay that sets up the limitations of the story. I appreciate that many people may really like "The People I've Slept With" for its unorthodox subject matter. But the film wants it both ways. It sets up its characters with a freedom and recklessness and rebelliousness to conventional standards. Their perceived superiority is absolutely believable in people of a certain age. But when the film attempts to connect on an emotional level, I didn't believe it for one minute. The film strives for a pathos at the end to elicit genuine emotion from its audience, but by that time--my hard heart was immune to these characters and it fell flat. KGHarris, 3/11.