In The Overnight – Patrick Brice’s short, sweet but lightweight comedy drama – a couple, Alex and Emily (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) move into a well-to-do area of LA and quickly find themselves in the company of Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and his wife Charlotte (Judith Godrèche). Alex and Emily are looking for friends in the area, but what are Kurt and Charlotte looking for?
After lubricating the social situation with wine and, inevitably, a bong, the evening’s activities start to move further and further away from a conventional dinner party and into sexually suggestive territory. Are Kurt and his wife swingers? Emily begins to think so. You’ll have to wait and see.
This story of an evening’s escalating entertainment is part comedy, part drama. Many of the situations are played – often successfully – for laughs, but at the heart of the film are two fairly real couples, delivered in the form of four strong performances, and Brice isn’t interested – with the exception of an awkward and, it has to be said, quite funny, dancing sequence – in grand statements or stereotypes.
There are occasions when the script strains to provide believability and these, ironically, strip the situations of their honesty. When the film ignores such contrivances and simply lets its characters breathe, it can be quite strong. Kurt, in particular, is a charismatic but weird individual, and it takes a while for the audience to suss what these characters are all after. In the end, the film decides to avoid doing anything overly daring with the material, and the denouement is cut short by a reprise of a gag earlier in the film. It’s both funny and frustrating.
What the film has to tell us about relationships is no more revelatory than that they’re all different, although it does have a refreshing honesty and a message that talking about things is therapeutic. Talking, indeed, is the film’s primary register – hardly surprising given the presence of mumblecore proponents Jay and Mark Duplass as producers.
Brice’s film adopts an unusual angle through which to look at adult relationships, and benefits from that, as well as a cast on good form. It lacks dramatic weight, and isn’t funny enough to work entirely on a comic level, but is still a confident, thought-provoking picture.