Starring: Taylor Schilling, Adam Scott, Jason Schwartzman, Judith Godrèche
Director: Patrick Brice
Distributor: The Orchard
Release Date: July 1st
By Michael Clawson of Terminal Volume
“This is California. Maybe this is what parties are like?” It’s that refrain that keeps a married couple stuck in a Los Angeles house for an increasingly awful and awkward overnight dinner party, one that involves breastfeeding how-to videos, paintings depicting “portals” into the human body, red-light massage parlors, and not just one, but two, prosthetic penises. We aren’t supposed to know they’re prosthetics, because the actors are depicting nudity with a special effect, but it’s obvious they are because, well, the pale color, the stiff rubbery flop, and the ’70s-era pubic hair growth. Does it sound like I’m an expert? Well, I am, because I’ve seen Patrick Brice’s The Overnight, which stars four people and two rubber stunt dicks.
Before these faux phalli come out, we have to back up to the previous afternoon: Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) are in a park with their young son, and they meet proto-hipster Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), who invites them over for dinner. Kurt has a son about the same age, and Alex and Emily are new to the area, so they agree. At Alex’s beautiful home, they meet his wife Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), and they settle in for what appears to be a lovely evening.
If you can sense this going south quickly, then a gold star for you. After the children tucker themselves out and fall asleep, the evening slowly tips into the wild and weird. First wine, then more wine, then pot and then before you know it Kurt is showing Charlotte’s acting video, which involves a nurse manipulating her bare breasts to demonstrate a breast pump. Kurt smiles up at the screen like he’s watching Citizen Kane. Alex and Emily’s jaws are in their laps. But that’s just the beginning as Kurt and Charlotte slowly unravel their complex and often sordid lives in front of their consistently shocked party guests, who try to leave several times but get roped in to sticking around. Eventually they are skinny dipping in the pool, and the film is not shy to show us gratuitous male, albeit fake, nudity. The joke here is that Kurt is well endowed and Alex is not, but one pep talk later and Alex is flaunting with an exuberant glee.
This strange behaviour — and don’t get me started on Kurt’s starfished-shape paintings — unlocks buried fears, anxiety and desires within Alex and Emily, who find themselves less shocked in their hosts and more surprised in each other and their revealing actions. I kept waiting for Kurt and Charlotte to be a more malevolent force, but they are mostly good people, just utterly confused about life, love and each other. And Alex and Emily are hiding repressed feelings that glow white-hot once unearthed. After one particular revealing moment, Alex says, “I feel like I just gave birth to myself.”
This is a strange, strange movie. And it gets stranger the longer it crashes itself into the screen. I can’t say it all works, but it has a kind spirit and a good heart. It’s certainly made better by the four leads, who maintain their chemistry across this one bizarre evening. Scott and Schilling are especially great because they have to contain these bewildered people, who should flee in terror but stick around out of sheer curiosity.
The Overnight is not for everyone, but it has its charms. It also has two fake penises that hijack the movie.