‘The Overnight’: No sleeping

June 18, 2015

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It is the rare movie comedy that can encompass the wild events  of a single night and keep you both squirming and surprised into laughter for its full running time.

Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours” is an example of the style done well; so is Greg Mottola’s “Superbad.” And now you can add to that short list Patrick Brice’s “The Overnight.”

Set in one of those hipster L.A. neighborhoods that seem to pop up like mushrooms, the film is about Alex (Adam Scott) and wife Emily (Taylor Schilling), who have moved to L.A. but haven’t made any friends. Then they meet their neighbors, Kurt and Charlotte (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godreche), whose little boy befriends Alex and Emily’s son.

Before they know it, a kids’ playdate has turned into a dinner invitation at Kurt and Charlotte’s. Between the wine, a bong the size of a Louisville Slugger and those warm California nights, one thing leads to another and… And what?

Certainly not what you expect, at any moment. I saw an early screening with a friend who said afterward that she thought it was going to turn out to be a horror film, the vibe in the first half-hour was that weird.

She was glad it didn’t, though you could argue that this dizzying comedy deals with the greatest horror of all: personal embarrassment.

It is that fear — of making some humiliatingly public mistake or of having your darkest secret brought to light — that is veined through this film. Scott has just the right slightly anxious reserve for this role. He could replace Ben Stiller as the reigning king of deer-in-the-headlights comedy, playing nervous guys who never miss a chance to look like an idiot.

He’s a perfect foil for the alternately bluff, sly and ingenuous Schwartzman. Schwartzman’s mix of casual elan and sudden obsessiveness would seem deranged and would not be nearly as funny without Schwartzman’s impeccable timing.

That’s not to underestimate the contribution of Schilling and Godreche. Schilling is the voice of reason in Scott’s ear who keeps whispering, “What are we doing here?”, even as she finds herself drawn into the evening’s events. Godreche, by contrast, has an incredible calm that can also be extremely funny.

“The Overnight ” ultimately has to get to the point — what is really going on here? — and doesn’t quite satisfy in that respect. But you’re not going to find another film this summer that keeps surprising you the way this one does.

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