By: Shannon Page
In a lot of ways, Patrick Brice’s The Overnight is a very rare film. With a small cast and fairly straightforward plot (the entire movie was shot in only twelve days), The Overnight is a sex-comedy about parenthood and relationships that avoids the usual clichéd pit falls.
When thirty-something parents Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) move to L.A. and are eager to meet new friends, they jump at a dinner party/play-date invitation from another couple (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche). After the kids go to bed, the adults stay up for a night that turns out to be both revealing and transformative.
The film manages to straddle a somewhat strange line between comedy and thriller – sometimes the effect is successful, and other times much less so. But, the characters are wonderful at navigating the apprehension and excitement involved in bonding with new people. Brice also manages to take the characters to expected places, but always in unexpected and unpredictable ways that end up feeling fresh. It is also notable that in its examination of contemporary relationships and parenthood, The Overnight never resorts to a reductive assessment of gender roles and stereotypes. In particular, masculinity and fatherhood are handled subtlety and with more sensitivity than audiences are used to getting from this kind of film. All of this results in some genuinely funny moments and characterization that feels natural and relatable.
It’s difficult to say just how much of the film was improvised or how closely the actors stuck to the original script and dialogue, but for every moment of successful humour in The Overnight there are several that fall flat. It’s not always clear if the audience is supposed to find something funny, awkward, or even a bit creepy and the result is a viewing experience that can get uncomfortable quickly – but that’s the point. As the central characters find themselves in increasingly bizarre situations where they are unsure how to react, the audience is also led along a similar path of unease as they are forced to share in Alex and Emily’s uncertainty. It is part of what makes the film enjoyable, but it is also part of what makes certain scenes less comedic than the filmmakers may have originally intended them to be. There is certainly a balance to be struck between sympathizing with the character’s discomfort and laugh-out-loud humour, but The Overnight doesn’t quite seem to have found it.
That being said, the film is visually and thematically dynamic with excellent performances and a clever handling of some challenging material that are more than enough to make it worth watching.