AFFD 2010: The People I've Slept With
[Our thanks to Liz Reed of MangaLife for this review.]
The first 15 minutes of The People I've Slept With were the most uncomfortable, in your face moments I've seen in a movie in a long time - and not in a good way with sub-par acting and a story too shallow to believe. But after getting over this difficult hurdle, the remaining 74 minutes are full of beyond hilarious situations, with an intimate look at love of all forms, and over-the-top characters you'll grow to appreciate. Yes, after getting over the film's self-expectation to feature raunchy sex scenes and lust, there actually is a sexy love story about responsibility, taking risks, and most of all, independence.
The film follows Angela (Karin Anna Cheung), an Asian American, self-proclaimed "slut" who takes pictures of her lovers and creates sex "baseball cards" (stats and all) to remember her conquests. Angela's rowdy lifestyle comes to a halt when her pregnancy test comes back positive and the father could be one of four people. With the help of her gay best friend Gabriel (Wilson Cruz), Angela decides to collect DNA samples from all of the mystery men to identify the father, and hopefully, make him fall in love with her.
To live up to its name, the film feels like it has throw in the shock value somewhere, and must have figured that by squeezing out Angela's animalistic sex scenes and experimentation in the beginning, the audience will realize they're in for a wild ride. And while the (for lack of better words) memorable scenes of Angela collecting DNA samples from a used condom or making out with a woman against a brick wall grab a few cheap laughs, The People I've Slept With isn't really so much about the people-- it's instead a story of a woman coming to terms with her past and realizing she is now is responsible for something greater than herself. When Angela pats her belly while scarfing down a bowl of cereal or sees her first ultrasound, these are the real moments that drive the film and make Angela a sympathetic character.
When the movie first introduces Gabriel, it's hard to judge whether or not he will play the stereotypical "gay best friend" for the remainder of the film. But as Angela matures, Gabriel matures, and his devotion to his partner inspires Angela to rethink her master love plan. Wilson Cruz plays this role with resounding confidence, and is arguably the funniest character in the script.
But don't get me wrong, the "people" that Angela slept with--all of them are truly a product of their own genius. Nice-But-Boring-Guy's stalker-esque behavior (and "hung" personality) provides laugh after laugh to keep the mood light. Mystery Guy (Archie Kao) is the definition of the dream man--his honesty and toothy grin make it hard to stay mad at him for too long. And don't forget Angela's easygoing father, with his mantras about life, love, and sex that will have your sides splitting long after his scene are over.
But while these outrageous characters deliver the entertainment, the message about loving oneself and finding freedom from societal constraints is what makes the film. So don't expect this to be your ordinary romantic comedy, "boy meets girl" type of movie--The People I've Slept With explores a generation of Asian Americans, homosexuals, and 30-somethings trying to fit into a world that much too often tells them no.
Even if you don't sympathize with the characters at first, they are really only "bad" people who want the good things in life, like families, wearing white at their weddings, and, um, daily pleasure. The film is funny, engaging, and not as predicable as you would think. What more can you ask for from a romantic comedy?