“Give me twenty minutes and I will give you parental bliss”
Writer/director Patrick Brice touches on many relationship aspects beyond attraction with his outrageous sex comedy The Overnight. Most work of this ilk push two couples with differing levels of strife together to see what comes out—swinging, uncoupling, cheating, etc. Brice instead introduces two pairs seemingly in bliss. Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) have a healthy relationship with each other and their son RJ (R.J. Hermes) while Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) are in a constant state of intimacy as they cultivate a European upbringing for their child Max (Max Moritt). It’s not sexual longing that bonds them; it’s a desire for friendship. Alex and Emily are new to California and no one seems better suited to show them the ropes.
Neither couple is necessarily straight-laced either. It’s not about Kurt and Charlotte opening Alex and Emily up to wild LA life—the newcomers embrace inebriation via alcohol and marijuana as soon as both are made available. Even when Brice positions one or more to be duplicitous or ready for an escalation from friends to more, he makes sure discomfort arrives to give us pause as to how purposeful any action is. Maybe this literally is a quartet desperate to unwind by the pool that let inhibitions dissolve with liquid assistance. Maybe no one is trying to get into anyone else’s pants but their own spouse’s. If they were, why would the awkward projection of Charlotte’s breasts on the television make her as uncomfortable as it does her guests?
Things obviously aren’t this innocuous, but the fact they aren’t wholly lecherous either is refreshing. Secrets are uncovered spanning the graphic (much of their dynamic hinges upon the size of Alex and Kurt’s penises), personal (Emily has only ever slept with one man), and sexual (each marriage’s utopic façade is only half true), but revelations don’t render adultery a viable response. As Kurt says, this get-together exists in a place of safety where everyone can be him/herself and work towards finding an inner confidence to uncover an authentic identity they might have been holding at bay. Because even though you’ll laugh a lot while watching their escalating antics, there’s also ample heart to show just how much they each needed this night to escape their respective doldrums.
To describe any of the big moments would be a disservice, however, with everything proving crucial to what follows whether by increasing courage, insecurities, or compassion. Details such as Kurt’s series of butthole paintings is as much a joke from obvious eccentricity as it is a subtle jab at the on-point intuition of Alex and Emily as it is an allusion to deeper truth. Nothing is simply two-dimensional for comedy’s sake—not Alex and Emily’s odd sex habit portrayed in the first scene or Charlotte’s dabbling with acting in instructional videos selling breast pumps. Each discovery working on multiple levels as we progress through the night isn’t an accident either. It demonstrates how intricately constructed and universally resonate Brice’s script is underneath its graphic extremes.
It’s no coincidence the film is bookmarked by sex scenes interrupted by children since they are a huge part of their parent’s lives. They dictate actions whether Kurt and Charlotte admit it, as we’ll soon find out. Everything these couples do is for their sons—Alex and Emily moving for the latter’s job to keep a roof over RJ’s head or Kurt and Charlotte utilizing their outgoing personalities to expose Max to higher education. But this also means they have very little time for themselves and finding friends to spend it with isn’t as easy as grade-schoolers converging at the park around gummy worms. There’s more to it then that even if it’s exactly how Alex, Emily, and Kurt meet. Playtime for adults comes with social restrictions.
Brice ensures his characters meet these “rules” head-on in differing states of mental clarity to see which side of the line they end up. Opportunities present themselves to step away from monogamy, but more for the benefit of audience curiosity than character misgiving. There were more than a few instances where I assumed the girls would walk in on something much less innocent then they do and vice versa. But the film plays with our preconceptions of the genre to keep the authenticity of their humanity intact despite any lewd propositions. It also provides that when the time arrives to truly test boundaries, they will with eyes and hearts open—in the moment and with honesty whether they’d ever do so again if jolted back to reality.
This is where The Overnight excelled the most. It isn’t afraid of delving into the psychology of married life to comprehend the consequences of sexual openness for good or bad. It does so with couples that implicitly trust their better half enough so the threat of physical cheating is non-existent in comparison to fantasizing. Epiphanies are reached for all four as the lack of judgment this evening delivers allows them to discover what’s important. It isn’t about sex as much as respect—platonic emotion built so strongly that it spills into the realm of pornography. They find themselves so at ease and confident that “out-of-bounds” is non-existent. Them stripping naked and grabbing hold of that which they never thought they could becomes a surprisingly beautiful expression of love.
 Jason Schwartzman Judith Godreche Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling in a scene from THE OVERNIGHT
 Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling in a scene from THE OVERNIGHT
 Adam Scott and Jason Schwartzman in a scene from THE OVERNIGHT
courtesy of The Orchard