"Sleep With Me" is as erratic as only a film with six different writers can be. Initially cloying and cliched, group portrait of twentysomethings in romantic disarray slowly gathers interest as things build to a dramatic head, and there are probably enough points of identification for young adults to give this MGM pickup a modest following theatrically before it goes on to a more fruitful life in video.

“Sleep With Me” is as erratic as only a film with six different writers can be. Initially cloying and cliched, group portrait of twentysomethings in romantic disarray slowly gathers interest as things build to a dramatic head, and there are probably enough points of identification for young adults to give this MGM pickup a modest following theatrically before it goes on to a more fruitful life in video.

A film about a group of friends made in a somewhat unorthodox group fashion, Rory Kelly’s first feature bears decided similarities to “Bodies, Rest & Motion, ” with which it shares talent in the producing, writing and acting areas.

At the outset, seemingly more due to the forces of gravity than love or passion, longtime couple Joseph (Eric Stoltz) and Sarah (Meg Tilly) decide to get married. This doesn’t much change their L.A. lifestyle, however, as their extended family of friends continues to surround them, and they’re still prone to the same temptations.

Specifically, Joseph’s best friend Frank (Craig Sheffer), after long suppressing his emotions, decides it’s time to declare his overwhelming love for Sarah. Sarah ultimately succumbs to Frank’s relentless pursuit, and the fact that they have great sex in their one session together complicates matters considerably.

Conceived by Kelly and “Bodies” writer Roger Hedden, script is structured around several large-scale social events — some parties, a dinner and a couple of poker games — each written by a different writer. Early section at the main couple’s wedding rehearsal is the most diffuse, irritating and poorly done, as it indulges the contemporary cinema’s latest cliche — the hand-held video p.o.v. in which characters reveal themselves in direct-to-camera — at enormous length, as everyone tries to be cynically funny and mock-sincere.

Dinner party scene is peppered with some good juicy sex talk, and poker scenes — the first all-male, the second co-ed — possess enough jagged tension and humor to keep auds interested.

But the extent to which energy and drama have been missing from the film is almost embarrassingly revealed by the strong final party. A hilarious recurring riff by helmer Quentin Tarantino, in which he delivers a convoluted but coherent interpretation of “Top Gun” as a gay film, packs more punch than anything else in the picture. Playing out the film’s central emotional conflict in a very public way on a front lawn at night before many guests, Kelly hits paydirt with Joseph’s blunt confrontation of his former best friend over his affair with Sarah.

Stoltz, Sheffer and Tilly are competent andamiable without being compelling, while remainder of the all-white-bread characters are relatively undifferentiated in attitude and world view. As entertainment, this is a spotty affair, with some sharp moments poking out of general blandness. As a portrait of one pocket of a generation, it’s a bit sad, since the characters have nothing on their minds except themselves, but can barely make their personal lives work, much less carve a meaningful place for themselves in society.

Tech credits are reasonably good for a low-budget effort.

Sleep with Me

Production

An MGM release of an August Entertainment presentation in association with Paribas Film Corp. and Revolution Films of a Joel Castleberg production. Produced by Michael Steinberg, Roger Hedden, Eric Stoltz. Exec producer, Castleberg. Directed by Rory Kelly. Screenplay, Duane Dell'Amico, Hedden, Neal Jimenez, Joe Keenan, Kelly, Steinberg.

Crew

Camera (Foto-Kem color), Andrzej Sekula; editor, David Moritz; music, David Lawrence; production design, Randy Eriksen; art direction, J. Michael Gorman; set decoration, Adam Mead Faletti; costume design, Isis Mussenden; sound (Dolby), Giovanni Di Simone; line producer, Rana Joy Glickman; assistant director, Fernando Altschul; casting, Ellie Kanner. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 14, 1994. Running time: 85 min.

With

Joseph - Eric Stoltz
Sarah - Meg Tilly
Frank - Craig Sheffer
Duane - Todd Field
Deborah - Susan Traylor
Leo - Dean Cameron
Nigel - Thomas Gibson
Rory - Tegan West
Amy - Amaryllis Borrego
Athena - Parker Posey
Lauren - Joey Lauren Adams
Marianne - Vanessa Angel
Pamela - Adrienne Shelly
Sid - Quentin Tarantino
Caroline - June Lockhart
Josh - David Kriegel
Minister - Lewis Arquette
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