Last year, Patrick Brice showed up to SXSW with Creep. Devilishly crafty and expertly focused, it fell in with the usual suspects of found footage horror, even though it was so much more than just another point and shoot, “gotcha!” scare effort. The natural tension that Brice was able to tease out of a scene – the inherent discomfort and overarching ambiguity of character relations – made for a plucky and generously bewitching offering of horror comedy.
Everything that Brice was able to achieve with Creep has been honed and amplified with The Overnight. Equally as reigned in character-wise – aside from a kiddy duo, there are only four principals – and pumped to the brim with laugh out loud comedy, it’s a singularly optimal amalgamation of talent in front of and behind the camera.
Adam Scott (Parks and Recreations) and Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black) are recent LA transplants, here from Seattle on untold business. Scott’s Alex is a stay-at-home-dad with a small penis (it’s literally the first thing brought up in the film and yes, we eventually behold his itty bitty guy in full prosthetic glory) while Schilling’s Emily is a working professional. In the midst of concern that they won’t be able to land new friends in the deep blue sea that is Los Angeles, Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) arrives on the scene barking about gummy worm health detriments and boasting of his child’s “all vegan” diet. He’s joking but Schwartzman’s native ability to be a stuck-up shmoozer loser could have sold this character the whole way through. In no time, he’s won over the rainy city couple, tempting them into meeting up later that night with promises of a pizza playdate for their boys that’ll doubles as their chance to make new friends.
In the garish fortress that is this mystery couple’s home, Alex and Emily find themselves cautiously seduced by Kurt and Charlotte’s (Judith Godrèche) breezy, Euro charm. The resulting tension courts thriller elements but never really pushes too close to the edge what with all its healthy dousing of eruptive comedy. Over the course of the evening, the players find themselves steadily breaking out of their comfort zones as the libations are poured, divulging deeper and darker secrets in conjunction with the increasing number of bong rips they slug. From Kurt and Charlotte going full frontal for a skinny dip to popping on an explicit (and niche) DVD, Brice flirts with the idea of crossing the line without ever drawing one definitively in the sand. With incriminating evidence piling up, the dial points to a strong likelihood of swinger-dom and Emily and Alex must decide how to proceed in this uncommonly racy situation.
Brice plays it cool though, creating a rich thematic dichotomy by implying something that might or might not be there. We find ourselves siding with the increasing suspicions of Emily though are equally willing to fall in line with Alex’s assumptions of this just being the “freewheelin’ California lifestyle”. Even more so than in Creep, we can never be certain of who exactly these people are and how roguish their intentions.
To chalk the whole film up to a feeling of uncertainly though misses the forest for the trees as this is through and through a brash, hysterical comedy. It just so happens that it’s that rare comedy with layers.
Each member of the cast fires their comedy shots with dynamic aptitude with Scott breaking new territory as a low-key but totally game fidgeter and Schilling playing incredulous like a weary jailbird. The undersung Godrèche is perfectly difficult to read as Schwartzman in the pole comedy position absolutely steals the show. From his equestrian-like male member (another prosthetic) to his general nonchalant demeanor, he chomps through his scenes like a horse to a bit.
The final result is both articulate and insightful, an uncommonly honest look at adult sexuality and the bargaining chips that married couples exchange. It’s also f*cking hilarious. Working from a much more finalized script (Creep was predominately ad-libbed), Brice proves his talent as a writer as well as a director and if he continues to pound out such accomplished work, he’ll be amongst the foremost directors worth of our anticipation.