The deadCenter Film Festival continues to deliver a wide variety of local and high profile projects, and few films playing this week have had talent as famous as The Overnight‘s Adam Scott(Parks and Recreation), Taylor Schilling(Orange is the New Black), Jason Schwartzman(Scott Pilgrim vs the World), and Judith Godrèche(Stoker). This is definitely an A-list team of comedic masterminds, but does the material give them enough great material to work with?
Alex(Scott), Emily(Schilling), and their son RJ are new to Los Angeles and are eager to make new friends. In attempt to meet new people, Alex takes his son to a birthday party where he makes a friends with Max. Max’s father Kurt(Schwarzman) gets very excited and invites Alex and his family over for a dinner party. After meeting Charlotte(Godreche) the two families everything seems like it’s going off without a hitch until Kurt puts the boys to bed and the truly wild side of the mysteriously friendly couple begins to come out.
The entire movie stays put in one house which makes for an exciting challenge for writer/director Patrick Brice. He sets up the couple as this wealthy and affluent couple, but leaves just enough off about them that you can’t help but feel uneasy. It’s a premise that just as easily could have been the set up for a great horror movie, but luckily this couple is less psycho killer and more late night sitcom. The slow burn speed of the reveals of the quirky turned queerish marriage is masterful. The further down the rabbit hole the audience goes the louder the laughter grows in order to help ease the painfully uncomfortable nature of each and every secret exploit the duo is into.
The script is strong with this one as Brice manages to hit a particularly seductive cadence with the pacing. Each and every absurd revelation about Charlotte and Kurt is more obscene than the next, but none of the so called “skeletons” in the closet ever feels out of the realm of possibility with these people. Everything from Kurt’s obsession with painting anuses to Alex’s complex about the size of his own manhood make for some serious laughs despite often feeling grossly uncomfortable.
Given the single location, this is hardly a plot driven movie. It’s all about these characters as they wrestle with their insecurities and uncertainty of their roles in their marriages. It may be a comedy, but there’s actually a fair amount of growth for all of the characters and in a way their interactions in the film act as a sort of therapy session for everyone involved. It may all end in what feels like a totally pointless orgy, but these characters do not start this evening in the same emotional place as they started and the bookended scenes of the couples interacting in the park only highlight their respective arcs.
Patrick Bice has a very unique voice and style that’s somewhere between the raunchiness of Adam Hertz’s American Pie and Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. It’s a very dry conversational style laced with sexual references and not so subtle cracks at sex positions, pretentious artist, and just about everything that makes the world go round. It’s a unique voice that didn’t fully resonate with my own sensibilities, but it delivered something we haven’t seen much in the realm of popular comedy in the last ten years.
For all of its artistic success, The Overnight is definitely going to be a niche comedy. It’s a little too uncomfortable for mainstream adult audiences, especially given the unashamed use of male nudity. If you’ve got sensibilities of steel, you’ll find a lot to enjoy with this sexually quirky exploration of marriage, but for everyone else The Overnight is going to be a curious but necessary pass on the rental shelf.