Coming in at a mere 79 minutes, somewhere between a sketch and an actual movie, “The Overnight” is a bonbon of embarrassment comedy, and it takes off from a common curiosity of early parenthood. When you have a toddler, your social circle shrinks along with your energy level, and the only new people you meet are parents of other toddlers. What if one of those couples turned out to be really, really weird?
Alex (Adam Scott, of TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) and Emily (Taylor Schilling, of Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black”) are Los Angeles newbies just arrived from Seattle with their 5-year-old son, R.J. (R.J. Hermes). They unpack their boxes and head to the local playground, where they meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), an exuberantly friendly fellow dad and self-proclaimed “mayor of the neighborhood.” The fact that he’s dressed like a defrocked rabbi doesn’t faze them — much — since it’s the kind of area where hipster eccentricities are to be expected. On a whim, Kurt invites the couple and their son to dinner. And the games begin.
Kurt’s wife, Charlotte (Judith Godreche), is a touchy-feely blonde bombshell from France, and everything about the couple initially seems almost farcically magical: the lovely, rambling Mission-style home in which they live (Kurt designed and rebuilt it), their loosey-goosy but loving creative parenting. What is it that Kurt does for a living? Something about extracting pure drinking water from raw sewage, but that’s just these days. Charlotte is an actress? Her clip reel is not exactly what you’d expect. And what about Kurt’s artwork, paintings that look almost like abstract variations on a particular part of the human anatomy. . .
Most of the comedy in “The Overnight” comes from the polite but deepening shock of Emily and Alex as they begin to wonder what they’ve wandered into and what might be expected of them. She’s a working mom and he’s a stay-at-home dad, and the tension underlying their roles flares up as the evening wears on. Also: certain body issues plaguing Alex come to the fore after the children are put to bed, the bong comes out, and it’s time for the nude midnight swim. It says something that the film’s most shamelessly ridiculous scene is also its funniest.
The writer-director is Patrick Brice, but he’s working in the wheelhouse of Mark and Jay Duplass, for whose Duplass Brothers Productions the film was made. That means you can expect oddball comic situations for gifted actors to semi-improvise their ways through and a near-thorough disregard for the business of making a movie look “good.” “The Overnight” plays like the first-person version of an anecdote you might hear at a PTA potluck, and that it works at all, really, is testament to the blithe comic skill of Schwartzman and Schilling’s knack for horrified reaction shots, although Godreche’s playful streak and Scott’s hapless everydad schtick contribute. “The Overnight” isn’t much — in fact, it’s hardly anything. For what it is, though, it’s enough.
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