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September 12, 2012

The People I’ve Slept With

by Franz Patrick


People I’ve Slept With, The (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

Angela (Karin Anna Cheung) was a girl who loved the simple pleasure of sex. Although she had been called a “slut” for sleeping with so many men and women of varying sexualities, derogatory comments didn’t get to her. In her mind, a “slut” was just a woman with the morals of a man. When she took a pregnancy test and the results pointed to her egg being fertilized, she made it a mission to sort through the pictures of men she slept with and find the identity of the father. There were four contenders: Nice-But-Boring-Guy (Randall Park), Mystery Man (Archie Kao), 5-Second-Guy (Danny Vasquez), and Mr. Hottie (Chris Zylka). “The People I’ve Slept With,” based on the screenplay by Koji Steven Sakai, was an uproarious sort-of romantic comedy, impressive in terms of its attitude about sex and sexuality and, more importantly, the way it treated its Asian-American woman protagonist with respect even though she was with child and had no idea about who the father was. I found it refreshing that Angela, although she loved sex, wasn’t featured as someone who wore skimpy clothes and heavy makeup like most Asian women in action films nor did she have to pretend to be a shy, innocent flower whenever she was around her family. It was critical that she was portrayed as a friend anybody could hang out with because the material asked us to relate to her struggles in not knowing what to do when something was thrown on her lap and clearly she was unequipped to handle it. Although a comedy on the outside, Quentin Lee, the director, wisely gave Cheung enough moments to deliver a level of seriousness in her character’s situation without coming off too forced, too sad, too desperate. As the laughter simmered down toward the middle, it was when we began to realize that being pregnant and not having the support of the father was no joke. I appreciated the picture’s effort in showing that support from family and friends do have their limits. Exploring loneliness is often disregarded in comedies because it is too easy for the material to slip into joylessness. I found it quite bold that the film managed to look into that emotion even for just a short period of time. However, I wished that the subplot involving the break-up between Gabriel (Wilson Cruz), Angela’s best friend, and Lawrence (Rane Jameson) were kept at a minimum or had been excised altogether. Gabriel and Lawrence were adorable when together but there was no dramatic gravity established when they were apart. In turn, Angela was relegated as the friend cheering for the gay couple to get back together. Even though the courtship which made way for a healing process had funny moments, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Isn’t this supposed to be Angela’s story first?” What the script needed more was Angela’s relationship with her sister, Juliet (Lynn Chen). Juliet represented what was expected of a woman. Angela and Juliet clashed but their friction never reached a boiling point because they didn’t have enough scenes together. “The People I’ve Slept With” was nonetheless a pleasant surprise. It may not give us easy answers in the end, some may even argue that it didn’t have an ending altogether, but the answers that were shared felt appropriate.

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