Patrick Brice’s second feature, The Overnight, retreads much of the awkward tonal ground of his previous Duplass collaboration Creep, albeit in a much more accessible and mainstream context on a far more reasonable budget. Funded by The Orchard in collaboration with Duplass Brothers Productions, and distributed by Universal Pictures domestically, The Overnight follows a couple (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) as they attend a dinner party at their neighbour’s (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche) house where everything is not as it seems. If this set-up is sounding similar to that of the recent The Invitation,1 that’s because it is – but rest assured, both films take this basic conceit in vastly different directions, Brice’s effort is far more focused on the comedic elements of such an encounter than Kusama’s (also) stellar paranoia-tinged effort.
Alex (Scott) and Emily (Schilling) are a married couple with a dull sex life, who have recently moved to a new neighbourhood in California with their 4-year-old son. One day at the park, hoping to make new friends, they meet Kurt (Schwartzman) and Charlotte (Godrèche), another couple with a 4-year-old son who live in the area. Kurt and Charlotte invite Alex and Emily over for dinner who, upon arriving, discover that Kurt and Charlotte are a power couple, occupying an inner-city mansion and pursuing creative careers due to a bevy of self-made wealth. The two couples hit it off, and as the night drags on everything escalates incrementally. The couples go from eating pizza, to drinking excessively, to smoking weed, to skinny dipping, and then things take a really, really weird, remarkably uneasy turn. Combine this plot trajectory with a healthy dose of hilarious gags and some stellar performances from the (minor) ensemble cast, and you have The Overnight, another worthy effort from newcomer Brice in collaboration with the Duplass Brothers.
Broad American comedies have been stuck in a bit of a cycle of late, with Apatow Productions (and knockoff companies) pushing a similar structure, aesthetic, and (overlong) runtime for the better part of the last decade, so it’s nice to see someone toying with the form under a major studio banner. In saying that, Brice doesn’t differ much from the structure or aesthetic of his predecessors, although understated indie tunes and mainstream early ‘00s hip-hop and RnB are remarkably absent from the score, and he makes broad strides in his modifications to the genre’s runtime. Clocking in at just 80 minutes, Brice’s feature is all killer, no filler, punching out joke after joke without unnecessary Apatow-esque exposition or falling for their specific brand of tweeness. Also on show is Brice’s signature creative mark, his astute understanding of how to create an uncomfortable sense of social awkwardness on-screen.
It’s nice to see Universal Pictures branching outside of the box here, investing in some actual dangerous comedy as opposed to their recent faux-dangerous release Trainwreck. The Overnight is about as subversive as a modern mainstream release comes; there’s full-frontal nudity, explicit discussions around swinging, fetish pornography, and hardcore drinking and drug use. It’s refreshing to see this stuff in a film that doesn’t employ them to be offensive for the sake of offensiveness – it feels actually boundary-pushing, and unknowing in its pursuit of such a classification. Brice, too, demonstrates that he isn’t a one-trick pony, demonstrating that he can pull off a much more formally conventional film than his slightly more offbeat found-footage debut. That’s not to say that it isn’t impressive, rather, it’s just not particularly ground-breaking or experimental; what it does show is that this director with clear mumblecore-y roots can shoot a conventional feature that feels as polished as those from his contemporaries, and that he is able to stretch a slim budget into something polished, while others may require $20+ million to do so.
Overall, The Overnight is a fun, albeit conventional, late-night sex romp throwback, an interesting and daring feature to be picked up by a large distributor, and a fun experience for those who are so inclined to seek it out. Brice has confirmed that he is more than a one-hit wonder, creating another unique and entertaining cinematic experience, that shows Scott, Schilling, Godrèche and Schwartzman at the top of their game, demonstrating their versatility with some seriously great performances.
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