There are times that you forget that Jason Schwartzmann is actually an actor. I don't intend this as an insult toward or a slight of Schwartzmann, but more an acknowledgement that in many ways we've gotten used to the American Pie actor in a certain type of role.
The Overnight is not that kind of role.
Yet, I also get the feeling that The Overnight is not a huge stretch for Schwartzmann, a talented actor whose really getting to show off here as Kurt, an overly friendly yet comfortable man who befriends Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling), a married couple in their 30's who've just relocated with their son R.J. from Seattle to a trendy section of Los Angeles. Alex, in particular, is sort of in that awkward life place where your role is changing and you're not quite sure how to adjust to it. Emily's role is a little defined as she's got a job - a place to fit in. However, there's no question that the two are feeling sort of abandoned in a city that can feel larger than life even to those who've always lived there.
So, when R.J. connects with another kid one morning it's not completely unthinkable that said child's father would reach out.
Before long, Kurt has invited his three new friends over to share a casual pizza night with himself, wife Charlotte (Godreche) and their son. Despite some reservations, one can see a look of relief in the faces of Alex and Emily at the prospect of finally making some sort of connection with someone in this new place. Besides, what could really go wrong?
Schwartzmann is damn near perfect here as a guy whose actions seem both borne out of hospitality and awkwardly and hilariously inappropriate. He's off-putting and he knows he's off-putting. That's where so much of the film's fun comes from and goes to. Off-putting becomes intimidating when Alex and Emily arrive at Kurt and Charlotte's home to discover it far surpasses anything in their wildest imaginations, a Spanish-style mansion in the hills above L.A. It also doesn't help that Charlotte turns out to be strikingly glamorous.
The awkwardness continues. While Alex and Emily's insecurities are raging, Kurt and Charlotte are playing the perfect and most hospitable hosts. Before long, a pizza party turns into much more. Kurt and Charlotte get the boys to sleep in an upstairs bedroom so that the adults can have some time of their own.
Admit it. Your mind is wandering.
Fortunately and much to the credit of writer/director Patrick Brice (Creep), The Overnight goes where you don't expect it to go and frequently doesn't go where you'd swear it's going to go. It's a given, I suppose, that becoming friends will take some strange twists and turns as Alex and Emily and Kurt and Charlotte get to know each other in ways that I'm sure no one expected and that are dark, absurd, frequently hilarious, and occasionally disturbing. The Overnight could have simply been a dark comedy. It could have simply been a dark thriller. Heck, it could have so easily been just a lot of things. Brice does a tremendous job of keeping things balanced, off-kilter and uneven. The innocence, or maybe it's naivete, of parents becoming friends with other parents gives way to people whose boundaries are pushed, limits are tested, and whose entire beings are made more vulnerable. If you're a parent who has ever experienced that awkward transition from single to married or from without child to with child, then you'll likely recognize these dynamics and they'll make you squirm.
Adam Scott, primarily known for his improv background, gets to push himself into darkly comical and just plain dark territory here. He pulls it off quite admirably. Taylor Schilling, familiar to audiences from her work on Orange is the New Black, plays the film's voice of reason, while Godreche is fine here but somewhat lost amongst the performances.
There are scenes in the film that have garnered the most attention from press and audiences, think dueling penises and a scene that follows, but one hopes that the novelty of those scenes doesn't overwhelm Brice's quality work throughout the film. Produced by the Duplass Brothers, The Overnight is a film that hits the vast majority of the right notes and becomes an entertaining, squirm-inducing and thought-provoking film with top notch work by D.P. John Gulesarian, especially in the film's final third.
At a mere 79 minutes in running time, The Overnight goes by quickly but is also just the right length. It's refreshing to see a filmmaker confident enough in the story he's telling that he doesn't need to stretch it beyond reason. The result? The Overnight is one of 2015's true indie gems.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic