Review: The Overnight (Brice, 2015) – SFIFF 2015

Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

I was lucky enough to catch the only San Francisco International Film Festival screening of The Overnight this past spring (a treat made even more special by the director’s appearance at the Q&A session, which you can watch below). Despite its late show time on a Tuesday night, the theater was packed–and no wonder. Though director Patrick Brice is a relative newcomer, the film’s stars include the comedic veterans Jason Schwartzman, Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), and Taylor Schilling (Orange Is the New Black), as well as French film actress and bombshell Judith Godrèche. The quartet have great chemistry, particularly Scott and Schilling, who play a married couple that has been together since college.

Alex (Scott), Emily (Schilling), and their son RJ are new to their hipster LA neighborhood. With Emily busy at her job, it is up to stay-at-home dad Alex to make new friends–something he feels nervous about. At a birthday party at a nearby park, they meet an eccentric but stylish couple Kurt (Schwartzman) and Charlotte (Godrèche), who happen to live close by. When they see their son Max hitting it off with Alex and Emily’s son RJ, the friendly neighbors suggest continuing the play date over dinner at their luxurious home. What begins as a convivial family meal takes a decidedly adult turn once the kids are in bed, and soon Alex and Emily are gushing that they haven’t had so much fun since their younger, more irresponsible days. Indeed, with the help of some mind-altering substances, Kurt and Charlotte seem too good to be true. Alas, the night growing late, Alex and Emily make noises to leave. But every time they start to make moves, their hosts throw out another giddy, outrageous idea that the couple, straitjacketed by parenthood for so long, simply can’t resist–until suddenly they find themselves in over their heads.

Comedies like this often play their humor too big, becoming ridiculous, feces or dildos flying in the air. But The Overnight somehow sidesteps that trap, despite a prolonged scene with full frontal male nudity (modest viewers: don’t fear, the penises are fake). Other comedies rely on a cast of oddballs to alternately charm and surprise us. In this film, however, Alex and Emily are as “normal” as you and me, and Kurt and Charlotte, while strange, don’t have any out-sized personality tics. All of which means that The Overnight would probably be classified as a traditional situational comedy (with adult content)–but one that follows none of the well-worn formulas. The result is a movie that’s just as fresh as work from more overtly innovative humorists such as Feig or Dunham.

In The Overnight Brice has created a hilarious film that is both surprising and thoughtful. I never knew I could expect so much from a comedy.

Preview:

Q&A session:

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