The Overnight (2015)
Should you choose to read a plot synopsis for Patrick Brice’s The Overnight, you may be left wondering what it’s even about. There’s a distinct reason for the vague descriptions most spoiler-free outlets are going with, as the film starts with a basic, wide-open premise and then allows its characters to do all the work. This approach allows for plenty of surprises despite the fact that there isn’t much here in terms of capital-P plot, and those very surprises function to lend depth to characters who don’t seem to have a ton of it at the outset.
The simple premise I referenced above is a realistic one. Alex and Emily (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) have moved from Seattle to Los Angeles along with their young son, and they’re on the lookout for new friends with which to bond. Although the movie absolutely has its share of comedy, director and writer Brice doesn’t mess around with the pratfalls of failed potential friendships before getting us to the couple Alex and Emily are going to spend the duration getting to know. Right away Jason Schwartzman’s Kurt appears on-screen at a park where his own son happens to be playing with Alex and Emily’s offspring. Kurt comes across as quirky to be sure, but he’s friendly enough that the couple accepts a dinner invitation to meet his wife and see where things go.
It turns out things go all over the fucking place. The night starts out with Alex and Emily gawking at Kurt’s mansion, embarrassed at the cheap wine they decided to bring. Kurt introduces them to his worldly French wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche), and the two couples seem to acclimate well to one another despite the usual hesitancy that comes into play in such situations. When Alex makes a motion to return home and put his son to bed, Kurt calls nonsense, saying that children shouldn’t dictate the night of the adults. I nodded in approval at this general sentiment as both boys are put to bed upstairs somewhere within the confines of the largest house ever.
From here, we learn a lot of little details. At first, Kurt and Charlotte continue to bolster their images as over-the-top L.A. hipsters. Between them, they design homes, devise water filtration systems, dabble in acting, paint, and play the piano. They seem wildly in love, always hand-in-hand or propped against one another. Alex and Emily absolutely believe the two of them to be a bit on the weird side, but they want to be open to new people and new things. They want to get a grasp on the elements of life they might be missing out on.
This very openness to the new and unknown leads Alex and Emily to drink and smoke some pot with their new friends, thus exponentially increasing the already-heightened levels of, well, openness to the new and unknown. Things get weird, things get emotional, and things get intense. There are prolonged discussions that reveal the inner flaws and self-consciousness of all four characters. There are moments of extreme closeness and moments of extreme revulsion. Facades begin to crack, tension begins to mount. By the end of the film, a conclusion is reached that manages to be weirdly touching, disgusting, and eventually comical.
In terms of the events that take place across the duration of The Overnight, that’s all I’m willing to say. Exploring these happenings in greater detail would betray the spontaneity of the movie, and that spontaneity is one of its greatest strengths. The screen play unfolds like one of those weird, hazy nights you have that you’ll never forget, and the reason you won’t forget it is how wildly it dodged your expectations in both positive and negative ways.
The four primary cast members (which are very nearly the only four cast members) are all excellent in their roles, and getting to know them and their insecurities is a big part of why the payoffs in The Overnight are largely successful. This isn’t an exciting movie or one that will blow your mind, but it creates its share of real human moments without betraying its status as a comedy. Kurt’s way of freeing up Alex, Alex and Emily’s many asides with one another, and Charlotte’s desperation being revealed to Alex all work because they’re relatable in spite of their framing. The more I dwell on it, the more I see depth beneath the surface here.
For all its experimental strengths, there are some things about the film that don’t quite fit. There is a scene during which Emily and Charlotte take a road trip in an alleged search for more alcohol, and it seems far too over the top for its own good. It also creates a sense of disconnect, as it forces matters to leave Charlotte and Kurt’s home for the first time since we first see Alex and Emily arrive there. I’m also torn on a couple of instances during which Alex in particular seems to have taken his new level of open-mindedness to extremes; there is hesitancy in his actions previously, and I don’t know if he’d stick around to push his boundaries to these soaring heights.
Despite some minor problems and a few limitations, I can still say I liked and would recommend The Overnight. It’s all over the place in a good way, confidently scripted, funny, and character-driven. I actually felt uncomfortable on many occasions (and not in the same way I did while watching Brice’s own Creep, thank God), and not just because of the cringe-humor overtures. Insecurity is a hindrance for all of us, and even if it gets turned up to 11 in the Overnight, Brice’s message is received.