The sex comedy is a well-worn genre, so it’s always refreshing when one comes along that is genuinely fresh and surprising, without sacrificing any of the sex or comedy. “The Overnight” manages to be just that, bolstered by excellent performances, clever writing, and a true sense of authenticity.
Taylor Schilling and Adam Scott star as Emily and Alex, L.A. newbies recently relocated from Seattle. With a small son and no friends, they are on the lookout for companions their own age. This materializes in the form of Jason Schwartzman as Kurt, a weirdo hipster sprite of sorts, who swiftly invites them over for dinner with his wife and son, and Alex and Emily get way more than just the pizza they were promised. As you may have guessed from the title, the film is one of those sprawling, wild one-night affairs, where relationships explode and re-knit themselves together (there were more than a few apt comparisons to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” on Twitter after the screening).
As Alex and Emily get to know their new friends, it becomes clear to the audience, if not our protagonists, that Kurt and his French wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche) are totally hitting on them. A will-they-or-won’t-they tension permeates the film as the night progresses and gets weirder and wilder.
This is a film that is inextricable from its performances, which are the heart and soul of the movie, as well as the incredibly well-written screenplay (the style isn’t all that much to write home about). It absolutely would not work without Schwartzman’s mix of confident, outsized, cocky (um, literally) swagger and genuine sweetness. There’s an innocence about him that tempers what could otherwise seem predatory, creepy or smarmy. No other performer could pull this off, and he is totally charming. Adam Scott has the less fun but equally as difficult job playing the closed off, awkward Alex, who over the course of the evening, comes into his own in a way he never expected. Taylor Schilling is great as the uptight(ish) Emily, who’s way savvier than Alex, and Judith Godreche is also fantastic in her role, managing the French clichés with aplomb and making Charlotte a real person, not just a fantasy or caricature.
The film is also hysterically funny, but it manages to ride the line between total broad, bawdy humor and real heartfelt vulnerability. There are many different shades of emotion and human condition here, so the comedy feels earned and grounded in reality. It’s funny in the way things are funny in the real world (although there are some prosthetics that are decidedly outlandish and unrealistic). Rather than go for cheap laughs or sex panic, “The Overnight” takes the high road, making weird situations seem totally normal and real, thanks to the perspective of writer/director Patrick Brice. There’s an open, non-judgmental attitude about the whole affair, and what happens feels plausible, and in the words of Alex, “expanding.” Smart, playful, and hilarious, “The Overnight” is a delightful romp between the sheets. [B+]