Fans who feel separation anxiety over the imminent disappearance of “Friends” from the prime-time television schedule may be attracted to this big-screen (though decidedly R-rated) imitation.
“Seeing Other People” is a relationship comedy about the tribulations of an engaged California couple (a TV writer named Ed, played by Jay Mohr, and Alice, a gardener played by Julianne Nicholson) who decide–at the woman’s urging–to have some pre-marital flings with other partners before tying the knot. This idiotic plan naturally leads to increasing tension between the two, as she links up first with Donald (Matthew Davis), a clinging contractor, and then with her own slimy brother-in-law Peter (Bryan Cranston), while he takes up with a jiggly young waitress named Sandy (Jill Ritchie). Also on hand as observers and commentators are Lou (Josh Charles), a recently-divorced buddy of Ed’s; Claire (Lauren Graham), Alice’s dour, nasty sister; and Carl (Andy Richter), a sad-sack friend of the couple who finds happiness with single mom Penelope (Helen Slater).
There are a few amusing lines sprinkled throughout the script by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, but for the most part the writing is about at the level of one of those dreadful NBC sitcoms dumped into the network’s old Thursday night hammock that not even the most favorable scheduling could save. (And absolutely nothing is made of the whole television background to Ed’s job.) Nor is Wolodarsky’s flat, lethargic direction any help. Mohr remains an engaging fellow, and there are moments here when he exhibits promise as a light leading man, but too often he has to resort to forced exaggeration. Nicholson, who was nicely natural as the rustic girl next door in the little-seen “Tully,” comes on too strong, especially in the latter reels, where she overemotes horribly. Davis is bland and Cranston all too credibly sleazy, while Charles offers little more than generic slime and Graham generic bile. (It’s rather like she’s channeling Stockard Channing.) Ritchie is fine as the adventurous Sandy, until the final act when the script demands that she go completely off the rails. (The revelation that she–along with a sexually demanding chum–is supposed to be a Harvard grad is also the source of an unwitting laugh.) The person who comes off best is Richter, whose easygoing charm and befuddled mien are disarming in this company. Technically the picture is subpar, no more than medium-independent level.
As I said, fans of “Friends” might be drawn to “Seeing Other People.” As for me, I’d rather be seeing other movies–and you’ll probably feel the same way.