You can sense an urge toward new genre territory in writer/director Patrick Brice’s “The Overnight,” as the film takes its sex comedy roots and tucks moments of surrealism and a gentle sweetness inside. The story of a newly relocated couple (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) in Los Angeles who are invited for a night of pizza, wine, and possibly more by the free-spirited Kurt and Charlotte (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche), it puts pathos under shock gags and unlikely visual draws for its nighttime sequences.
A spa visit by Schilling especially stands out, and when we met up with Brice recently in LA to talk about the film, he told us two main touchstones for that scene: Gaspar Noe’s “Enter The Void” and the opening scene of “Belly”. (“Basically a creative use of blacklight–not trying to hide the fact that it’s blacklight, and letting people’s eyes and faces get crazy and psychedelic,” he explained.)
Brice is no stranger to more startling turns–his first film “Creep,” which premiered at SXSW last year and will be released on Netflix soon, was a found-footage horror chamber piece. But in the case of “The Overnight” it all adds to an uneasy yet frequently funny result that we called “fresh and surprising” in our B+ Sundance review, and so we thought it right to ask Brice about a other influences that shaped his cinematic worldview.
“A Brief History of Time” (1991)
Patrick Brice: It was the first time I remember going to the theatre–my grandparents would take me to the arthouse movie theatre from a young age, and they would go see whatever they were going to see and just take me. So we saw a Errol Morris documentary about Stephen Hawking when I was like 9 or 10. Everything went completely over my head but it didn’t matter because I was in a theatre, and it absolutely felt like a safe space.
“The Blues Brothers” (1980)
Growing up my introduction to cinema was by far through VHS tapes. Mostly dumb movies with my dad, like “The Naked Gun” series, “Airplane,” stuff like that. That was my base of what I thought was funny. “Blues Brothers” was the first R-rated movie I was allowed to watch, so there was kind of a ritual to it- my dad said, “I’m gonna show you this movie, it’s the greatest movie ever made.”
And it’s such an interesting movie. I don’t know if you’ve seen it recently, but the first 20 minutes are like, silent. They’re not talking to each other at all. The whole sequence from Dan Aykroyd picking John Belushi up from jail and then going to his apartment, there’s maybe 5 or 6 lines in the whole thing. So literally you’re just relying on these performances and characters. There’s dialogue, but it’s so sparse, and the pacing just lets the silences live. And obviously that movie turns into car crash city by the end, but still. That film was presented to me at a young age as an example of what was funny–it felt like I was getting a window into the adult world, mostly through absurd ‘80s comedies.
“Adventures in Babysitting” (1987)
I would watch it over and over again with my dad–he loved that movie. He loves the blues, and there’s a lot of blues in that movie, but also it’s got this propulsive plot. As things get crazier and crazier you get more and more engaged. It helped because going into “The Overnight” I was thinking a lot about movies that take place in 24 hours, and believable arcs storywise for each character. I watched this, and also [Jean Renoir’s] “Rules of the Game,” which is one of my favorite movies of all time, and another film about a night that gets out of hand. It was good to watch just as a reminder.
“Miami Blues” (1990)
I was thinking about hangout movies, where plot is important but so is the point that you want to live in this world with these people for a short amount of time. “Miami Blues” is a movie that’s tonally all over the place, but it completely embraces that. There’s these moments of absurd, heightened, ridiculous action that’s supposed to be played as comedy, and then there’s also this underlying level of sarcasm, too. Not to say it happens with our movie but it was one of those movies that I watched and realized you could get away with anything as long as you were checking off certain boxes, genre-wise.
“Wings of Desire” (1987)
That was another that I watched on VHS by myself at home. I was just so taken by the film, the mood, the pacing. And there’s this moment–the first hour of this movie is just drifting through Berlin with these angels, and you’re hearing the inner dialogue of all these citizens of Berlin. And there’s this moment where Bruno Ganz listens to this guy who was in a motorcycle accident. And there’s this poem that was written by Peter Handke, it’s this piece called “Invocation of the World.” And that’s what he starts reciting with him. It’s almost like he’s reading billboards, clichés–“The Wild West, the rolling sea”–and the camera does this crazy dolly back.
That moment in that movie, that did it for me. It was going to be cinema from then on. It’s funny because after that I saw films like “Pulp Fiction” and “Boogie Nights” from age 14-19–it was that great resurgence of American cinema. “Fargo” was another one, where the balance of the humor and the pathos and the sadness came together so perfectly. I like the highbrow but I love the lowbrow too, and with [“The Overnight”] I wanted to embrace as much as I can and marry the two.
“The Overnight” hits theatres on June 19th. Brice’s first film “Creep”, starring Mark Duplass, has been acquired by Netflix for release on July 14th.