The Overnight **

A movie caught between funny and serious, succeeding at neither

Is it worth $10? No

“The Overnight” opens with a heavy breathing and groaning couple played by Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling having passionate sex. Good start. Then, to the horror of most and the familiarity of those who have young children, the couple is interrupted by their son, who’s wearing a Superman cape and wants to play.

This scene, like almost every scene in the film, is grounded in seriousness but has a slight humor about it. The problem is we’re not sure if we’re supposed to laugh or be aghast, and it can’t be both. “The Overnight” takes itself too seriously to be a comedy, and it’s got too much outlandish extravagance to be a clear drama.

Alex (Scott) and Emily (Schilling) moved to L.A. from Seattle two weeks ago and have yet to make friends. While at the park with their cock-blocking son R.J. (R.J. Hermes) they’re befriended by Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), a freethinking bohemian who takes an immediate liking to them and is positive his wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche) and son Max (Max Moritt) will feel the same. A pizza dinner is planned for that night.

At first it seems like an innocently joyful, raucous evening with new friends. Then the kids go to bed and the kid gloves come off. An instructional video in which Charlotte demonstrates how to use a breast pump is screened. There’s excessive drinking, and a bong comes out. The hot tub is used. Skinny-dipping. Paintings of buttholes. Vomiting. Emily and Charlotte go on a beer run that takes a notable detour to an Asian massage parlor. Is an orgy imminent? 

We’ve all had nights that have gotten out of hand, but “The Overnight” isn’t really about the excesses of debauchery and good times. Instead, and in spite of its sex, nudity (Scott and Schwartzman sport prosthetic penises of vastly different sizes), alcohol and drugs, writer/director Patrick Brice’s film is really about the drudgeries of marriage and maintaining vitality when monotony becomes the norm. Thus when the public façade of a “happy” marriage is exposed it feels raw and real, unflinchingly honest for audience members who identify with the excited/scared/irresponsible decisions and emotions on screen.

If only Brice could find a better way to communicate this message. The talented cast plays the material straight, as they should because it’s not intentionally funny. But this puts the onus on Brice to create humor through context and timing, which he does not effectively nor consistently do. Just because comedians are the stars doesn’t automatically make the movie funny, after all.

We’re then left with a 79-minute film about four lost souls searching for something, anything, to make them feel more alive, and a narrative that does not engage us enough to care about their journey. A muddled tone will always take you nowhere, regardless of the story’s intentions.

Did you know?
It was filmed in two weeks at comedian Adam Carolla’s home.  

Find tickets and showtimes on Fandango.

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