Sex comedies can get a bit tedious. How many times can you see the movie about the guy who can’t get laid? Or how many times can you see a movie that is absurdly raunchy for the sake of being raunchy? I don’t have a problem with raunch; I just need an actual joke underneath it. The Overnight takes the idea of sex outside of the mind of a fifteen year-old and puts it in the heads of a thirty-something couple with a kid. It gives the ideas of exploration and outside desires to ruminate with people who are supposed to be set in their ways sexually. Leave it up to a couple of Silver Lake hipsters to do that! This is not some revelatory piece about the sex lives of the modern couple. Don’t get too carried away. It is just a really funny, fairly smart movie about a couple being confronted with things they may not have realized they would enjoy.
Emily (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Adam Scott) are a couple with a young son who recently moved to Los Angeles from Seattle. When he starts to play with another boy at a playground, they meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), who could be seen as the prototypical Silver Lake hipster. He’s got the big shades, a wide brimmed hat, the scruff of someone who pretends to not care but obviously does. It’s all there. He suggests Alex, Emily, and the boy all come over to his and his wife’s (Judith GodrÃ¨che) home for a night of pizza and good times.
It’s when the two young kids go to sleep, though, that the night gets interesting. More drinks get poured, substances are indulged, and Emily starts to suspect there is something more going on here. Their boundaries start to get challenged, and Alex and Emily are having trouble discerning where a liberal California party ends and a possible swinger, sexually open party begins. It’s that line that becomes the source of a lot of the comedy here. Possibly misreading a moment or facing something outside one’s comfort zone simultaneously allows for fish out of water humor, subtle character humor, and some raunch.
The quartet of actors work incredibly well together. Each has a natural chemistry with the other three in their own unique way. Schwartzman is the source of the biggest bulk of laughs, as he plays the broadest character ripe for good jokes, but the other three are all given their due. Even Schilling, who plays the film’s closest thing to a straight “man”, is still given plenty of things to play for laughs, and she does them beautifully.
Bumping up against eighty minutes long, The Overnight does not waste time on any one thing. There isn’t enough time. It never exhausts a premise or spins its wheels hoping for a punchline. They know exactly the line to hit, they hit it, and move along. There is only joke that overstays its welcome, involving Adam Scott’s character’s insecurity about the size of his penis, particularly in comparison to the rather large size of Schwartzman’s character’s. The payoff works, but the build up is a bit much.
The climax is surprisingly tender in a scene that could easily have gone to a gross-out place. In a movie that has not been afraid to be vulgar and wacky, it’s nice the apex of everything is somehow the calmest scene of the whole movie. I applaud writer/director Patrick Brice for making that call, as it is quite effective.
The movie, though honest about contemporary coupledom, could have been a bit more explorative about why some people are starting to drift this way and particularly the after effects of it. We are given short shrift on how this night affects Emily and Alex’s lives, which would have been very interesting. The Overnight is content enough to just be in the moment of that one night, which is fine, but there are enough hints within the film to show that the ambition for something more was lurking but never capitalized on.
As it stands, Brice has made a very funny movie. Schilling, Scott, Schwartzman, and GodrÃ¨che form a fascinating bond in a movie that’s not revolutionary or particularly ambitious, but is tender, funny and honest.