Sharp comic performances from Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black), Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) and Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore, Listen Up Philip) and a nifty script elevate director Patrick Brice’s new marital sex comedy The Overnight into genuinely comedic territory.
Review by Katrina Conaglen at Edinburgh International Film Festival
The phrase “marital sex comedy” should be enough to strike fear into any film-goer’s heart, given how the genre is largely made up of entries that are neither titillating nor funny, and certainly don’t portray marriages anything akin to the ones you see in real life.
So The Overnight, the second film from writer-director Patrick Brice (Creep) and produced by mumblecore deities the Duplass brothers (Safety Not Guaranteed, Baghead, Togetherness), comes as a breezy, bright surprise – an amiable romp through the complications of coitus post-matrimony.
Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) are an attractive, all-American, Seattle couple whose somewhat laboured sex life (involving rather unorthodox manoeuvres and methodologies for getting off) is further strained by having to take place in the stolen moments before their young son RJ (RJ Hermes) rushes their bedroom each morning.
Newly arrived in LA, they’re desperate to make friends, and so when the louche but compelling Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) invites the whole family to dinner with his pulchritudinous French wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche) and their son, the stage seems set for a burgeoning friendship. After the kids are both put to bed for the night, though, and the champagne and bong comes out, it becomes apparent that the worldly LA couple have altogether more ulterior motives for extending hospitality.
What keeps this rather “oo, er, vicar” plotline fresh and compelling is both the plausibility of the Scott and Schilling characters – they’re overly credulous, yes, but not vapid, and they pleasingly don’t drop-trou at the first hint of incense and soft lighting – and the delightful way in which the script side-steps audience expectations.
The emergence of a salacious tape starring the cover-of-Maxim-bodied Charlotte is shocking, but not as you’d anticipate (or perhaps hope), and the result of a late-night excursion to a massage parlour is out of left-field. Crucial to the film’s likability, the marital distress that fuels this wild bacchanalia is quiet, realistic and respectful, rather than shrill and tawdry. As the primary seducer, Schwartzman treads an amusing line between creepy and charismatic – he’s ridiculous, to be sure, but that’s all part of his charm. Charlotte is played with languid intrigue and sound comic timing by the Gallic Godreche.
Nudity is, refreshingly, not obsessed with the male gaze – there’s as many male members on display as there are lady bits, and the horse-flesh doesn’t feel gratuitous but rather grafted into the comedy (indeed, male paranoia about phallic inadequacy is part of the movie’s gentle commentary on relationships). Some of the broader aspects of the film’s comedy, such as an extended sequence in a gallery of paintings of anuses, (anii? anui? Let us stay with anuses) skirts with bad taste, but the film never descends into the witless prurience of American Pie territory.
Criticisms of the film as slight – which it is, on balance, hinting at depth but never really delving – are easily dismissed given the picture’s brisk 79 minute running time and sustained entertainment value.
Definitely inflected with the Duplass sensibility – character driven, warm hearted, low key – The Overnight is a credit to the disreputable genre it inhabits.