LA Film Fest Review: The Overnight, by David Bax
Patrick Brice’s The Overnight belongs to a couple of niche subgenres. First, and most well-executed, is its contribution to the all-in-one-night, American Graffiti-style movie. Except for the prologue and epilogue, the story believably unfolds over a roughly ten-hour period. Unfortunately, it also belongs to the “affluent, white, discomfort comedy” company. Brice does at least get some credit bringing that discomfort to higher pitch than we’re used to.
Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling play Alex and Emily, a couple with a young son who have recently relocated to Los Angeles for Emily’s job. One day, at the park, their kid befriends another boy, whose father, Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), invites all of them over for dinner that night. They go, they meet Kurt’s wife, Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), have a nice dinner and let the kids go to bed. And then the night gets weird.
It’s hard to empathize with Alex and Emily. They are well-off enough to afford a house in trendy Silver Lake and their main source of embarrassment is that Kurt and Charlotte appear to have even more money than they do. Perhaps that inferiority is what at first leads them to go along with their new acquaintances’ increasingly bizarre and sexualized behavior – Charlotte shows them a video of herself working as a breast pump model; Kurt is eager to present his paintings of anuses. Granted, this gets a little weirder than your average episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm but at least Curb understands that part of the joke is the fact that its characters are so rich that social awkwardness is literally their biggest problem.
For so brief a movie (the whole thing runs a scant 79 minutes), The Overnight spends far too much time foreshadowing its destination. Maybe another reason it’s hard to empathize with Alex and Emily is that they’re so oblivious. We don’t need to see Charlotte’s breasts or Kurt’s (prosthetic, fake-looking) penis to know that this is all a come-on but we see them anyway.
Eventually, The Overnight does have something to say about how we codify sex into orientations and preferences and about the moralities we concoct because of that. In these brief moments, the movie is provocative and confrontational in the best ways, climaxing (no pun intended) in a scene that’s surprisingly tender compared to the slightly removed and jaded tone that has led up to it. But then the movie reminds you that it all really comes down to Alex’s insecurity about having a small dick.