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The Overnight Speaks to Our Hearts, Funny Bones and Sphincters

By  · Published on June 20th, 2015

The Orchard

Editor’s note: Our review of THE OVERNIGHT originally ran during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but we’re re-posting it as the film opens in limited release.

We’ve all been there once or twice in our lives – somewhere new with people and places you’ve yet to see and meet, where you’re a blank slate with a chance to shape a new you. For most people it’s going away to college, for others it’s moving across country with all of your physical belongings in a U-Haul, but while the electric charge of fresh discovery is strong there’s often also a loneliness as you arrive somewhere new without family or friends. That first step of putting yourself out there can be incredibly difficult, even more so depending on what you get back in return.

Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) have recently arrived in Los Angeles with their young son RJ, and while she’s starting her new job he’s getting used to being the stay at home dad. The struggle for him is that while she’s meeting people at work and engaging in conversations he’s left alone with a child and no real way to find new friends. That changes one morning when they meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and his son at the park. They hit it off, as do their boys, and Kurt invites the family over to his and his wife’s home for pizza night. Best case? Alex, Emily and RJ have found some great new friends. Worst case? Well, let’s not even think about that.

Writer/director Patrick Brice’s second film (after the fantastic Creep) is a comedy on the surface – an incredibly funny one capable of deftly moving between raunchy laughs and far more innocent humor – and a sincere look at relationships underneath. Friends and lovers can be difficult to find and even more challenging to keep, and both need honesty if they’re going to work. And sometimes? Sometimes they also need paintings of puckered starfish.

The evening seems like a success at first as the boys continue to get along and the adults are regaled with tales of Kurt’s various adventures and interests. “I’ve lived many lives,” he says. He designed their house based off Charlotte’s (Judith Godrèche) childhood home back in France, he’s traveled the world, he’s invented a new water filtration system and he’s even an artist with a very specific niche. As the night goes on though things start to take a turn. Alex and Emily are convinced to let their sleepy son go to bed upstairs because kids shouldn’t be the ones dictating when the night ends for their parents. It’s a French thing. Also a French thing? Some weird vibes and non-verbal cues that suggest Kurt and Charlotte may have some peculiar interests.

To say more would take away some of the fun of watching each layer of normality peel back to reveal a hint of suspicious intent beneath. It’s enough to know that the evening gets freaky for all involved, and while there’s suspense for both viewers and couples alike the events – and the reactions to them – are often tears-in-your-eyes hilarious. Don’t let Scott’s beard fool you. Normally it’s an indicator that he’s playing an asshole, but Alex is more in line with his Parks and Recreation character albeit with a fouler mouth. And he does get foul.

The film offers up plenty of raunchy, adult laughs from all four leads as well as some creative nudity, but one of the film’s greatest successes is the balance it manages between its humor and its heart. This isn’t a Neighbors redux (2014 or 1981, your choice) where the goal is crass and awkward laughs. These four are given the opportunity to explore full-fledged characters, and the result is a quartet of people you come to care about even as you’re inundated with sex talk, hand jobs and pubic hair.

All four leads to great work with both Scott and Schwartzman having fun with their respective comedic styles before seeing them shift into something new, and Schilling (Orange Is the New Black) continuing to show herself capable of fantastically dry delivery and real sincerity, sometimes in the same scene. Brice writes honest, believable characters and places them in slightly off the wall situations, and so far he’s found performers capable of handling both ends beautifully.

The Overnight continues his (admittedly short) trend of delivering very funny films with a second, more dramatic layer underneath, but even if the relationship drama fails to move you the laughter created by the dialogue and visuals surely will.

The Upside: Incredibly funny; perfect tonal balance and timing; fantastic performances from all four leads; devoid of filler, fast and to the point

The Downside: Could have spent more time with these people, at the risk of over-doing it

On the Side: Adam Scott wants it known that there are two, that’s two, prosthetic members in this film.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.