The trailer for The Overnight promises that it “pushes past limits other comedies have observed for years”. Minor spoiler, but a lot of that is about shots of male prosthetics that last longer than the half-second at the end of Boogie Nights. So if that sort of thing weirds you out, this is probably not the movie for you, fair warning.
The boundary isn’t just about depicting male nudity; it’s also in the way writer/director Patrick Brice doesn’t focus as much on the women in the movie. Sex comedies have pretty much always been about excuses to get the actresses naked, but we see a lot more of the guys here, albeit not in quite the way that drives audiences to Magic Mike or its upcoming sequel.
The story is basically an updated spin on Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice: two couples consider a night of swinging fun, and the prospect digs up a lot of their issues and inhibitions. Mostly on the side of Alex and Emily (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling), who have just moved to Los Angeles from Seattle. They run into Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) at the park, who invites them over for dinner since their son seems to have hit it off with his.
The evening starts off great, with Kurt and Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) playing the perfect hosts. So when they suggest putting the boys to bed upstairs and continuing the party with just the adults, and things quickly turn adults-only. It starts with an owner’s manual DVD for a breast pump that Charlotte starred in, and quickly moves on to Kurt’s paintings that show a certain Georgia O’Keefe influence, and then skinny-dipping in the pool.
Appropriately for a sex comedy, there’s a pretty straightforward Freudian reading here: Alex is the ego — the identity we focus on — while Kurt is the id, driving him towards pleasure and indulgence. Emily is the superego, trying to maintain the voice of right and wrong while Charlotte acts on Kurt’s behalf to run interference. It’s unfortunate, though, the focus on Alex and Kurt’s dynamic relegates Emily to the traditional role of wife as moral scold. The one time where the script engages with the idea of her own desire is more than a little clichéd.
That said, the movie is plenty funny. Schwartzman and Scott work great together as a comic duo. Scott, in particular, is remarkable for being one of the few comic actors who can put a certain shamelessness to use as a straight man. And if we’re going to have our female lead be the one to hold the line for a bourgeois sense of morality, Schilling’s work in Orange Is the New Black shows that she’s just the woman for the job.
Still, like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice before it, there’s nothing really that scandalous about The Overnight. Or maybe that just means I’ve been hanging out with a hipper crowd than I thought.
Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.
This review also appears at Punch Drunk Critics.