Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Overnight

Writer-director Patrick Brice's fragile and ephemeral 80-minute "The Overnight" walks a daring and transgressive line through the minefields of marriage, sexual attraction and the loosening of inhibitions. Exciting, full of truth, and so funny I almost choked at one point, it's sure to make my list of the year's best films.

Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling star as Alex and Emily, a young couple recently relocated to L.A. and eager to make new friends. Alex stays home and cares for their son, RJ, while Emily works. Emily surprises Alex and RJ at the park one afternoon, where RJ has made a new friend named Max. Max's father, Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), introduces himself and invites Alex, Emily and RJ to his home for a pizza party that evening. They agree and are soon being welcomed by Kurt's wife, Charlotte (Judith Godrѐche). After dinner, the take-charge Kurt suggests they put the boys to bed and continue the party poolside. Thus is the stage set for an altogether different sort of "playdate," the exact nature of which crystallizes for Alex and Emily only much later into the morning.

Before it does, Alex will have bared himself, body and soul, to Kurt and Charlotte, revealing what he feels to be his most intimate and embarrassing shortcoming, and with it the sore spot in his and Emily's otherwise happy marriage. Under the influence of copious quantities of alcohol ("Booze run!" Judith cries, deflecting Emily's observation that several bottles of whiskey remain on hand), he will also fall under Kurt's charismatic spell. Adam Scott, who has forged a busy career as a utility player, steps into the spotlight here with a minor miracle of a comic performance that never steps wrong. The play of moods and thoughts across his face is something to behold. 

Each of Scott's three co-stars has laugh-out-your-nose moments of humor. Schwartzman has never been better, the attention-commanding part of Kurt an ideal fit for his unique and overbearing manner. Schilling's Emily maintains a responsible approach for so long, it's all the funnier when she gives herself over to the night and its possibilities. And Godrѐche brought tears to my eyes with her innocuous delivery of lines charged with sexual undercurrents. 

Brice understands how quickly we can open ourselves up to new friends, acquaintances, strangers. How far we're willing to go if we have the excuse of inebriation or a crazy night in our back pocket. How freeing a non-sexual physical act can feel. How erotic it can be simply to express a thought out loud, or to proposition someone and face rejection. The mumblecore movement comes in for a great deal of criticism, but look at the gems it's given us in recent years: Lynn Shelton's "Your Sister's Sister" in 2012, Joe Swanberg's "Drinking Buddies" in 2013 and "Happy Christmas" in 2014, and now "The Overnight," a worthy heir to a legacy of intrepid honesty.

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