It’s difficult to discuss “The Overnight” in great detail. I went into Patrick Brice’s new sex comedy without having any idea what it was about, which made my viewing experience all the better. Taking place over the course of one wild night, the movie keeps you on your toes; it’s one of the few comedies I’ve seen recently where I’ve been on edge practically the whole way through, never being able to predict its twists and turns. And yet, through these twists and turns, Brice ultimately crafts an endearing and introspective feature about self-reinvigoration and coming out of your shell.
Things start off innocently and predictably enough; Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling star as Alex and Emily, an unremarkable couple. They get along with each other just fine but there’s a spark missing, Alex seems unhappy and their sex life is unremarkable (for very specific reasons you’ll find out about later on). And the few moments they do find time for such activities are interrupted by their son R.J (R.J Hermes). While in the park one day they meet Kurt, (Jason Schwartzman) an overly nice but kind of pushy gentleman with a hint of arrogance to him. Kurt eagerly invites the three over to his house to have dinner with his wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche) and son Max (Max Moritt).
Having recently moved to L.A. from Seattle, Alex and Emily don’t have any friends so they accept, thinking what’s the worse that can happen? Oh, Emily and Alex, how naïve you are. Although in their defense, I don’t think anyone would be prepared for the night they’re about to experience.
Kurt and Charlotte are the kooky, free spirited couple, more open about personal matters like sexuality than Emily and Alex. However before long, Kurt and Charlotte go way beyond the standard kooky and free spirited couple. After the kids have fallen asleep, when the booze and the marijuana are brought out, when skinny dipping is suggested, personal barriers come crashing down. And Kurt and Charlotte’s actions become increasingly bizarre and inappropriate. As far as plot summary is concerned, I’m going to stop right there because one of the pleasures in watching “The Overnight” is how wildly unpredictable it is.
Somehow Brice manages to blend together the right amount of sheer awkwardness and outrageousness. You’re made so uncomfortable you want to seek refuge underneath your seat, while at the same time you want to stick around to see just how crazy this night can get. Like driving past a car wreck on the side of the road--you know you should keep going but you’re too curious. Kurt and Charlotte appear to be locked in a serious game of “How Uncomfortable Can We Make Our Guests,” while Alex and Emily continue to play along for whatever reason. You’d think that when a couple you hardly know invites you over for dinner and proceeds to show you videos of people using breast pumps you would leave immediately. But then again, what do I know?
A lot of times comedies have a tendency to be bogged down by too much plot and exposition. They may be funny but they also begin to feel tedious when you realize the story isn’t going to yield any real surprises. “The Overnight” demonstrates that creating a successful comedy can be as easy as bringing two couples together for a single night. With one inappropriate violation of personal boundaries after another, Brice gradually peels back the layers of each character and relationship like an onion. The facades of politeness and uneasiness shatter and our two couples let it all hang loose (very literally at one point). Insecurities and uncertainties are brought out into the open. We begin to see the cracks in each marriage form and startling revelations—mainly in regards to why Kurt and Charlotte are so goddamn weird this night—are made apparent during the film’s conclusion. “The Overnight” may be small in scope but a lot happens and by keeping it within an intimate space Brice keeps the focus on the characters.
Aside from Brice’s surprisingly intricate script, the success of “The Overnight” lies in the hands of its leads. All four have such effortless, easy-going comedic chemistry and each bring a surprising amount of nuance to their performances. The strength of the characters in turn strengthens the outrageous antics--making them add up to something substantial. By the end, both couples go through major transformations and learn new things about each other for the better…and for the worse.