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Adam Scott, left, as Alex and Taylor Schilling as Emily are on the hunt for new friends after relocating from Seattle with their son. A trip to the playground lands them a family dinner invitation, but as the night progresses it becomes unclear whether the play date is meant for the kids or the parents.

The Archive

3.5 out of 4 stars

Written by
Patrick Brice
Directed by
Patrick Brice
Starring
Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman
Country
USA
Language
English

Sporting the earnest look of a Concerned Parent™ and a wide-brimmed felt hat like an uncredited member of Mumford & Sons, Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) marches up to a young mom and dad on the playground with a confiscated gummy worm pinched between his index finger and thumb. But instead of launching into a sugar-is-poison tirade that I imagine is popular in the parks and Whole Foods aisles of Los Angeles, where Patrick Brice's The Overnight is set, Kurt uses the limp treat as a means to strike up a conversation.

The twosome are new to town and it just so happens that Kurt knows the neighbourhood like the back of his hand, such that he fancies himself "sort of the mayor of this place."

The line – like every bit of dialogue Schwartzman has ever delivered, from Rushmore to Listen Up Philip – is said with a straight face and without any sense of its irony. Kurt is peak white dude in his lack of self-awareness, but he is kind and ingratiates himself to Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling).

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Giving new meaning to the word hospitality, what begins as an impromptu pizza night between the couples, hosted by Kurt and his wife, Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), gets weird once the kids go to bed. Behold: Kurt's oil paintings – a series called Portals that, in the tradition of Georgia O'Keeffe, is renderings of purple rectums. There is also a brief screening of lactation porn that leaves Alex and Emily agape.

Scott and Schilling play the straight men to the couple's swinger vibes, partly out of bourgeois politesse, but mostly out of the wish and whim to feel at home in a new city. In the face of Kurt and Charlotte's freewheeling Californian life, they are unsure of their new friends' intentions, but are committed to playing it cool.

The Overnight was produced by Jay and Mark Duplass and it shares some of the absurdity of last year's The One I Love – that quirky tale of parallel worlds in which Mark and his co-star Elisabeth Moss gasp the last breaths of their deteriorating marriage.

But The Overnight doesn't share the same cynicism about matrimony and waning libidos. Brice's film is lighthearted and funny without being flippant about the task of sustaining desire over years of marriage and dirty diapers. The film so easily could have been about men bemoaning how crummy it is to have to sleep with the same woman forever, but The Overnight contests the fixed ideas about what it means to be masculine.

In its best moments, The Overnight deviates from the conventions of a party movie (or "sex comedy," as it has been christened) and veers toward the experimental, the uncanny, the unsettling.

In one scene that calls to mind David Lynch's massage-parlour aesthetics, Schilling's character finds herself trapped in a small room where she is then compelled to watch Charlotte on the other side of the wall through a peephole.

Awash in red light, Schilling's blond hair and pale skin glow with a saturated pink hue. It's as if she has sunk – drunken and dazed like a grown-up Alice in Wonderland – to the bottom of a bottle of rosé. Framed by the peephole, Charlotte's Cheshire grin completes the Lynchian wonder of the scene.

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In short? Eat the cake, breach the O'Keeffe portal and accept The Overnight's invitation to L.A. hospitality.

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