The Sterling Standard in Movie Reviews 

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Any Time Is Party Time

The Orchard
 79 Minutes
Rated: R
Directed by: Patrick Brice
Starring: Taylor Schilling, Adam Scott, Jason Schwartzman 
The Overnight

There is a popular vision of Hell, one that has been depicted in some well written fantasy stories, in which the Infernal Region becomes a neverending cocktail party. It seems pleasant enough at first: comfortable surroundings, intelligent people, good food and drinks. But then, the unfortunate condemned realizes that his fellow guests aren’t the type of people he wants to spend more than a few minutes with, but he can’t get away from them. This particular fictional depiction of Hell came immediately to mind as I watched The Overnight, a short but memorable movie about a couple who wind up going to a dinner party that becomes increasingly hellish.


Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) are newcomers to Los Angeles who are having a tough time blending in. They haven’t hit it off with the few people they’ve met, and her work and his status as a stay-at-home daddy to their six-year-old son aren’t conducive to socializing. In addition, as parents everywhere can attest, an active youngster can wreak havoc on a couple’s attempts at a sex life.


But their isolation might end when Alex meets Kurt (Jason Scwartzman), another dad whose son Max is at the same playground as Alex’s son R.J. As the two children play, Alex and Kurt strike up a conversation and Kurt invites Alex, Emily and R.J. over for dinner to meet his wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche). The dinner goes well and the newcomers agree to put R.J. to bed with Max so the adults can socialize more.


Of course, as soon as the children go to bed, the socializing becomes much more adult, as Kurt and Charlotte provide liquor and pot for their guests and then the secrets start getting revealed. Kurt and Charlotte are extremely uninhibited (they proudly show off the instructional videos Charlotte made as a model for breast pumps), and the newcomers aren’t sure just how to react. From there, Kurt shows Alex his art collection, which consists of paintings made from photographs of a certain portion of everyone’s anatomy that almost never gets photographed because people are sitting on it most of the time.


As the evening progresses, Alex and Emily are quite slow to pick up on what’s going on, which makes their reaction shots at times hilarious. Taylor Schilling has shown a gift for comedy on Orange Is the New Black, often in similarly embarrassing situations as she tries to maintain her dignity. Adam Scott, on the other hand, is a bit clueless in recognizing what’s going on.


Although audiences will be well ahead of Alex and Emily in figuring out that something is amiss at this party, writer/director Patrick Brice has a few extra twists up his sleeve, and the evening doesn’t progress quite the way most viewers would anticipate. Further, the plot twists that occur in the movie aren’t for sensationalism or shock value, they are integral to the story line and eventually provide some quite interesting character revelations.


The best way to describe The Overnight is as an R-rated comedy of manners in which a young couple who turn out to be somewhat inhibited and inexperienced try to react in the “right way” to some obviously more liberal-minded and experienced hosts. It’s often quite funny in this regard. Part of this is due to the rather inspired casting of Jason Schwartzman as their host. Few actors are as capable of making people feel uneasy in their presence as Schwartzman, and, although he’s toned down his usual persona enough to make Alex and Emily’s willingness to spend time with him more credible.


The Overnight is a short movie, clocking in at a brisk 79 minutes, as Brice puts his characters through their paces. Anything more might have dragged or caused the film to feel more lurid than it is. For, despite the somewhat sensationalistic material, Brice actually keeps the film interesting as a character study of real people and not an excuse to provide the audience with voyeuristic thrills.


The second half of the movie turns more serious and becomes an exploration of the nature of both couples’ sexual proclivities and hang-ups. Brice sets the stage well in the first scene in the movie, depicting a rather unsatisfying experience involving Alex and Emily. From there, it’s easy to see that a part of their unease during the party is due to their own feelings of inadequacy in their own sex lives. From there, Brice reveals other problems they have and some that their hosts have as well. This half of the film doesn’t work quite as well (the film’s party setting isn’t ideal for a serious exploration of sexuality), but it does show that the movie is after more than sensationalism.


On that subject, however, I must say that there is one scene in the movie that has generated considerable buzz and will probably be remembered for a long time. There is graphic nudity in the movie, but, in a rather unusual twist, it is the male actors who show off more than the actresses do. To say more would give away some key plot points, but The Overnight is rather unusual in that regard.


I’m not sure how seriously the filmmakers intended the movie to be taken. The Overnight is no Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf or even a Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice for that matter. It does explore the subject of sexuality in more depth than most recent movies, which would have turned this subject matter into another Amercian Pie. The movie’s ending has the best gag of the entire film, one which Brice spent literally the entire movie setting up, which ensures its ending on rather the right light touch. As Alex and Emily go home after their night out (and the audience goes home after theirs), we get the feeling not of a major life changing event but more of the beginnings of some lesser changes. And it’s fitting that director Brice shows them and us the way with this amiably lighter weight movie.

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The Overnight (2015) on IMDb