The Overnight, written and directed by Patrick Brice is a film that walks a dangerous line. It’s a sex comedy with an absurd premise that requires you to completely buy into what it’s selling. Take it too serious and the jokes won’t land. Go too ridiculous and all the pathos is lost. With a surprisingly witty script that constantly takes unexpected turns and some great performances, The Overnight manages to perfectly straddle that line and the result is a film that makes you laugh and surprises you at the same time.
The best way to describe The Overnight is as a raunchy film that’s never afraid to “go there.” In this instance “there” is always a hilarious and surprisingly heartwarming place. The film tells the story of Alex (Adam Scott), Emily (Taylor Schilling), and their son RJ who have recently moved to Los Angeles. While on a trip to the neighborhood park, the family bumps into Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) who, after seeing their children hit it off, invites them all to a dinner party with he and his wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche). Desperate for some new friends in the strange new city, the couple accepts.
What follows is a series of increasingly escalating absurdities as the truth behind all of our characters is slowly revealed. Kurt and Charlotte are not your average couple and their behavior, mildly odd at first, gets increasingly strange as the night goes on. One minute they’re eating eating pizza and discussing Kurt’s water filtration system, the next we’re watching Charlotte’s stint in acting as the star of a breast milk pump infomercial. There is a lot of sex based humor here and the film definitely earns its R rating. Things get pretty ridiculous as the strange quirks and issues of each character come out, but the film never plays these troubles and desires off as jokes; it always takes them seriously. The jokes come from the increasingly ridiculous ways in which these desires present themselves.
This is paramount because The Overnight, for all its raunchy (and funny) sex jokes is actually saying something. It has important things to say about body image, sexual frustration, and the difficulties of monogamous relationships. In order for this to work we can’t insult the core of these characters. We can (and do) make fun of their behavior, but never the underlying cause. The result is we feel for these characters and their issues. We’re laughing, but also empathizing with some of their very (scarily) relatable issues.
The film also manages to be consistently unpredictable. Just when you think you’ve got a peg on what’s happening the script sends everything in a different and usually funnier direction. There are some moments of lag where things start to meander a bit, but for the most part it’s a tight, simple story that’s enjoyable from beginning to end.
Brice directs the film in typical Mumblecore fashion, using mostly handheld cameras and simple lighting to give it the trademark naturalistic look. This basic, inexpensive style servers to bring us closer to the action. The Overnight is a small, simple film and it’s directed as such; without a lot of flourish.
This flourish can be found in the performances of its ensemble cast, however. I’ve been a fan of Jason Schwartzman ever since Wes Anderson’s Rushmore and this is the character he was born to play. Kurt is a self-idolizing, new age hipster and Schwartzman plays him with a likeable smugness that’s so fun to watch. Adam Scott plays the straight man here, a role he’s perfect in. He nails the incredulous reactions to all the craziness, but there’s an underlying craziness behind Alex as well, and Scott plays this wonderfully.
Both Schilling and Godreche’s characters are sexually frustrated women, very much in love with their husbands, but unhappy with the troubled sexual aspect of their relationships. Like Schwartzman and Scott, Schilling is playing the straight woman to Godreche. Both women want similar things, but Charlotte is much more comfortable taking the steps to get there, including late night visits to seedy massage parlors. The sexual tension between these four oozes off the screen and it culminates in a surprisingly anti-climactic finish that I won’t spoil here. I will say that it manages to both make sense within the concept of the story and yet be utterly surprising.
The Overnight is a small film that manages to be a raunchy sex comedy and an examination of modern relationships at the same time. It stumbles a bit as it walks this tightrope, but regardless is a blast to watch. If you’re looking for an adult, R rated comedy you cannot go wrong with this film.
The Overnight is currently playing in select arthouse theaters. Dallas residents can see it at the Angelika Film Center in Plano or AMC Grapevine Mills.