There is a certain comfort in films where not much happens. As much as I love a bloody slasher or a historical battle, quiet films where you get to really know characters and metaphorically crawl into their skin offer a very specific type of satisfaction. The Overnight is the sort of film that lets you get to know four people better than you may know your own friends, and it never tries to be anything more than it is.
Alex and Emily (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) have just moved to a trendy neighborhood in Los Angeles from Seattle. They don’t really know anyone in their new area, and are delighted when they meet an outgoing neighbor while out at the playground with their son. Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) seems friendly enough, and they take him up on his offer for a pizza party for their sons that night. Alex and Emily are reservedly optimistic about making new friends, and relieved when Kurt’s wife Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) is just as warm and unassuming as he is.
Nearly the entire film takes place at this impromptu dinner party, though given the title of the film you know that you are in for longer than just a meal. After the boys have been put to bed, the adults get to know one another in more ways than one. A good mix of alcohol and casual drug use make their inhibitions fall and all four characters get loose.
I was expecting for the film to devolve into a giant orgy or a Quaalude catastrophe at one turn or another, but The Overnight never steps beyond its realistic boundaries. I think we are so accustomed to films trying to outdo one another in terms of sex and shock, and it was refreshing to watch a film that was primarily concerned with creating characters. Alex and Emily’s marriage is not perfect, and neither is Kurt and Charlotte’s, and to watch these strangers get to know one another over the course of the evening was more engaging than it would have been to see them perform asinine tasks.
This is not to say that The Overnight does not go down the rabbit hole at all. It is certainly a wilder night than I ever hope to have with complete strangers. But each peculiar event in the evening is shown as emotional catharsis for one of the characters, and is never completely random. Each of these adults is at a point in their life where they need a little excitement and reflection, and fortunately they get to share that with each other.
One small issue that audiences may have with the film (other than a copious amount of full-frontal male nudity, if that bothers you) is the focus on the construction of Alex’s fragile masculinity. Modern male masculinity must be an awfully delicate thing to have so many films focus on it. Much of Alex’s story is about the crisis he is having with himself and his ability to identify as a manly man. I did not take too much issue with the focus on this because it was presented in an authentic way. Even though the monotony of exploring masculinity in cinema is getting to me a bit, Alex’s issue is never presented as a giant universal or cultural issue. Director Patrick Brice does a good job of keeping personal issues personal, and on a small scale.
It is this small scale that makes The Overnight great. It is not reinventing anything, or claiming to change the world. It is not commenting on sweeping social reforms or proposing a cure for global issues. It is merely a film, offering a small glimpse into the tiny world of two imperfect couples. Getting to spend some time with these three-dimensional characters, seeing the world through their eyes, was a welcome diversion from our own lives.
Director: Patrick Brice
Film Length: 80 min
Release Date: June 26, 2015
Distributor: The Orchard