The Overnight Review
Alex and Emily (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) are high school sweethearts who have just moved from Seattle to Los Angeles with their young son. With a mediocre sex life and an apprehension to making friends, the two are surprised to find themselves acquainted with Kurt and Charlotte (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche) almost immediately after moving into their home. Kurt and Charlotte are just a wee bit eclectic to say the least, with Kurt claiming to have made a large amount of money by providing a complex water-filtering system to third-world countries that turns water into sewage and Charlotte claiming to be infrequent actress. Nonetheless, the two couples and their children get together at Kurt and Charlotte’s house for a night of drinks, marijuana, and lengthy conversations about nothing and everything.
Instantaneously, Patrick Brice’s The Overnight reminds of two films. It bears a narrative resemblance to Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, an immensely funny, overlooked comedy from earlier this year that worked to examine the relationships between a millennial couple and a middle-aged couple. In addition, the film echoes the sentiments of Roman Polanski’s Carnage in that it pairs two unlikely couples together by circumstance that get along and argue based on the merits of their own personalities. The Overnight rolls both films into one package that works in spite of its notable shortcomings.
To get those out of the way, The Overnight has a funny way of being low-key in its comedy at times and too broad at others. Consider the absurdity and the looks on the faces of Alex and Emily when Kurt reveals to them that he bought a bulk package of bathrobes online. That’s the quiet humor these kinds of independent, mumblecore-style comedies traditionally utilize. Now consider the scene where Kurt shows Alex his various paintings he calls “portals,” which are stylized and heavily colored pictures of the anuses of many of his friends, even his wife. There’s a notable divide in the humor on display here, with some jokes aiming to be too broad and far-reaching to be taken seriously when everything else in the film is uniformly realistic.
However, that’s kind of the beauty in The Overnight – its ability to take characters that can function as caricatures with deep, contemplative human feelings is something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen done before, and if so, not this competently executed. Brice is careful never to draw his characters in broadstrokes, but rather, some of their situations. He makes Alex and Emily the traditional couple, one that adheres to the principles of monogamy and becomes shocked when they realize that the desire to sleep with someone else is still present in both of their minds. Kurt and Charlotte exhibit a much more liberal sense of love, which is the whole reason they invited Alex and Emily over and the first place (the film doesn’t really reveal why until the end, yet most moviegoers, seasoned or casual, will likely be able to pick up what’s being put down from early on).
This contrast almost always makes for a film that’s fiercely watchable and bitingly funny, which The Overnight often is. Its simultaneous absurdity in its situations and likable, relatable characters make this film fun and endearing. For the first time that I can remember, Adam Scott plays not only a likable character, but a believable one, not basking in the idiocy of several unlikable traits nor being the metaphorical dart board for other characters to gleefully jab at. Taylor Schilling also gets probably the most fun role she has yet to have, as she delivers her character’s anxiety richly and believably. Finally, it almost goes without saying that Schwartzman is fun here, cocky as usual but almost annoyingly quaint, a character he has always been able to play to a tee, and when assisted by the perky Godrèche, he’s only made better.
The Overnight is also something that will surprise the brave moviegoers that choose to seek it out in a season traditionally crowded with films, and this year being no exception. At only seventy-six minutes without credits, The Overnight gives the audience more to think about than the typical lackluster romantic-comedy fare that frequently lasts an upwards of two hours. Its pervasive casualness and chill demeanor makes you forget that you’re watching a very intriguing depiction and critique of modern romances, done with elements of caricatures and very realistic dialog. With this technically being Brice’s first film (his other film Creep is available on iTunes at the moment and is one of my favorite films of the year), he shows incredible prose and talent for depicting modern relationships. These kinds of films have an impact that will last much longer than the end credits of other films of this same genre.