Sundance 2015 Review: The Overnight

Taking a simple premise and (for the most part) a single location, Patrick Brice’s comedy, The Overnight, is joyously awkward and marvellously performed by a cast who stand as the crème de la crème of contemporary American comic talent.

Emily (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Adam Scott) have recently moved to LA and are looking to make new friends for both themselves and their son. The arrival of the enigmatic Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) seems to deliver this – until their first play-date takes a turn for the bizarre.

With a genuinely intriguing narrative from writer-director Brice, The Overnight shines as an example of a film that is both intelligent and riotously funny. The unusual fun begins when Emily and Alex arrive at their new best friend’s home – and are in awe of their impressive careers and talents (Kurt is a talented painter and philanthropist amongst other things). However, The Overnight really gets going when Brice starts sewing elements of unease into the narrative: a slightly worrying familiarity appears as Emily and Alex are exposed the secrets of their new friend’s marriage. What results is a comedy of such awkward discomfort and embarrassment-driven humour that it is a challenge not to get sucked into the fun.

The predominant use of just one location furthers this sense of discomfort, whilst giving the simple and intimate atmosphere. This atmosphere grows stranger and stranger as we learn more about the film’s hosts – but it also grows more amusing. Personal issues are drawn to the forefront and become sources of great humour – most notably highlighted during a poolside striptease with Schwartzman and Scott set to dated trance music. As the alcohol flows amongst the characters – the night gets more uncomfortable, the humour gets more awkward, and the fun hits a strong peak. Much of this humour is thanks to an able cast who fully commit to the film’s intriguing premise.

Schilling is excellent as the increasingly uncomfortable Emily – particularly as Kurt and Charlotte become more ‘open’ and Alex more intoxicated. Watching Scott’s Alex unwind and embrace the thought of ‘expanding his horizons’ is consistently amusing. Schwartzman shines as the loveable douchebag with his own insecurities, whilst Judith Godrèche has great fun as his overtly liberal European wife.

The Overnight does provide satirical dialogue on the institute of marriage and raises some valid questions about matrimony as a defined force – but for those simply look for some great laughs and inventive narrative turns, this is a treat.

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