The Overnight opens with a heavy breathing and groaning couple played by Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling having passionate sex. Good start.
Then, to the horror of most and the familiarity of those who have young children, the couple is interrupted by their son, who's wearing a Superman cape and wants to play.
This scene, like almost every scene in the film, is grounded in seriousness but has a slight humor about it. The problem is we're not sure if we're supposed to laugh or be aghast — it can't be both.
Alex (Scott) and Emily (Schilling) moved to LA from Seattle two weeks ago and have yet to make friends. While at the park with their cock-blocking son R.J. (R.J. Hermes) they're befriended by Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), a freethinking bohemian who takes an immediate liking to them and is positive his wife Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) and son Max (Max Moritt) will feel the same. A pizza dinner is planned for that night.
At first it seems like an innocently joyful, raucous evening with new friends. Then the children go to bed and the kid gloves come off. An instructional video in which Charlotte demonstrates how to use a breast pump is screened. There's excessive drinking and a bong comes out. The hot tub is used. Skinny-dipping.
We've all had nights that have gotten out of hand, but The Overnight isn't really about the excesses of debauchery and good times. Instead, and in spite of its sex, nudity (Scott and Schwartzman sport prosthetic penises of vastly different sizes), alcohol and drugs, writer/director Patrick Brice's film is really about the drudgeries of marriage and maintaining vitality when monotony becomes the norm.
Thus, when the public façade of a "happy" marriage is exposed, it feels raw and real, unflinchingly honest for audience members who identify with the excited/scared/irresponsible decisions and emotions on screen.
If only Brice could find a better way to communicate this message. The talented cast plays the material straight, as they should, because it's not intentionally funny. But this puts the onus on Brice to create humor through context and timing, which he does not effectively nor consistently do. Just because comedians are the stars doesn't automatically make the movie funny, after all.
We're then left with a 79-minute film about four lost souls searching for something, anything, to make them feel more alive, and a narrative that does not engage us enough to care about their journey. A muddled tone will always take you nowhere, regardless of the story's intentions.
The Overnight (R) 79 min.
Dir. and writ. Patrick Brice; feat. Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, R.J. Hermes, Max Moritt, Judith Godrèche
Opens July 3 at Santikos Bijou, 2 Stars