It can be tough when you move to a new town, desperate to meet friends and unaware of the local proclivities. You may be so afraid to offend anyone that you end up in situations way out of your comfort zone, like a whiskey tasting, or bikram hot yoga, or a libertarian fundraiser. Patrick Brice’s new comedy, THE OVERNIGHT, follows the extremely awkward evening one couple stumbles upon in the quest for friends. Produced by The Duplass Brothers, the film stars Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black) and Adam Scott (Parks and Rec, Party Down) as the new kids in town (some urban post-hipster subdivision of LA). The couple, introduced in a hilarious disquieting sex scene, has all the problems of two people very much in love but struggling with easing into the next stage of their life, the long haul of raising a kid and being a family. Freshly arrived they know no one and have little opportunity to meet potential friends because of Schilling’s work schedule. When they happen upon the odd but charming Kurt (Jason Schwartzman in one of his most nuanced performances ever) and he invites them to dinner with his wife, they cautiously dip into the still waters of possibility. Of course, by the end of the film, they’ve fallen far into the deep end with Kurt and his French lactation-aid-product actress Claudia (Judith Godrèche), drowning in the strangest night they’ve ever spent.
So what exactly happens over the course of the couple’s ‘overnight?’ To reveal that would undercut the fundamental charm of the film, where the innocent couple is coaxed, teased and pushed one step at a time into new situations, none of which could be expected. Sure, there is the constant ‘menace’ of the LA Chíc couple being ‘swingers,’ but that is way too simplistic for the way the evening plays out, which sees Alex and Emily step over one boundary after another and find themselves somewhere they never imagined. Suffice to say, Alex and Emily don’t consider themselves uptight, but when they are faced with Kurt and Claudia’s elegant and curious lifestyle, they have to make a choice to go with the flow or cut and run. They make the brave choice (thankfully for us) and treat us to a film that essentially plays out like a feature length version of Jon Favreau’s answering machine messages in Swingers (hang up… hang up… no don’t call back… no…. stop… — I still haven’t recovered.)
Taylor Schilling is one of the best comic actresses working today, her deadpan delivery as she tries to keep her bearings never fails to amuse, and she has great chemistry with Adam Scott. For Scott, the film asks for much higher peaks and bottomed-out depths, and he charms us with his good intentions. The stay-at-home dad character is always full of inherent contradictions, and Scott’s ‘plight’ captures this. What seemed like a throwaway opening scene sets up all the conflicts in their marriage, showing a true strength in the script (also by Brice). Jason Schwartzman is always amusing on screen, but in The Overnight, he really becomes someone fresh and original, crafting a character that seems entirely ridiculous but completely plausible and delightful at the same time. It’s honestly one of my favorite Schwartzman performances of all time, and reason enough to see the film.
The Overnight is the near perfect indie – the cast is very strong, bordering on making this ineligible for the term indie. The story is contained and simple, but full of so many twists that the audience is never bored or ahead of the characters. There are moments that are absolutely cringe-worthy, in the best possible way, which would only be possible if you cared about the characters. There is one mere scene that doesn’t work for me, a ‘field trip’ taken by the girls in the midst of the night that takes them out of the house. I couldn’t help but wish Brice had found a way to touch on those same themes without them leaving the house, because there is something magical about the audience being trapped in the house with the couples, their kids asleep upstairs. Still the film comes to such an amazing (and well-planted) conclusion, all is forgiven. This is a film to watch with someone you love, and possibly a couple you don’t know at all.
The Overnight opens nationwide this Friday. Here in Texas, writer/director Patrick Brice will be doing Q&As after the Friday evening shows at the Landmark Magnolia in Dallas, and after the Saturday evening shows at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.
Bears Fonte covers indie film for AMFM Magazine and programs and consults for film festivals nationwide. He is the Founder and Executive Director of Other Worlds Austin SciFi Film Festival as well as the former Director of Programming for Austin Film Festival. His short The Secret Keeper played at 40 festivals, his feature iCrime was released in 2011 by Vicious Circle.