Why Can’t We Be Friends?
There’s one thing they never tell you about becoming an adult. Making friends is hard. When you become a parent? Making friends is really hard. Here’s an example.
I work from home, so it falls upon me to handle school pickup for my kid. I’m one of the lone fathers to collect my kid at the end of the day, and probably 85% of our school pickup is handled by mothers. While waiting for the school doors to fling open and unleash a horde of rampaging children, I’ll occasionally make small talk with other parents. In a few instances, these conversations have created a quasi-friendship, in which the families get together regularly. In even fewer instances, we parents will actually hang out without the kids. But most conversational attempts wither and die, the unspoken message being, “Are you kidding me? I’m fully immersed in hating my spouse, or obsessing over my child’s development and/or psychological problems! Friendship is a two-way street, and as a modern American parent, I’m all about one-way streets.”
Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) are in a similar situation. They’ve recently relocated from Seattle to Los Angeles with their young son, RJ. Emily has taken a promising new job, and we sense resentment from Alex. While at a playground, RJ clicks with another boy, Max. His parents, the hipster Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and the gorgeous and French Charlotte (Judith Godreche), introduce themselves. They’re very nice-perhaps too nice. The kids have so much fun that Kurt and Charlotte invite Emily and Alex to their home for dinner.
While at Kurt’s house, the two couples begin bonding. Early on in the evening, due to RJ’s exhaustion, they decide to head home. “Only in America do we let children dictate when the night is over,” Charlotte exclaims. Both boys are put to bed. Then, copious amounts of alcohol come out, an impressive bong makes an appearance, and things start to get weird. Thus begins the independent comedy from writer/director Patrick Brice, The Overnight.
What becomes clear very quickly is that Kurt and Charlotte enjoy pushing boundaries. We see Charlotte’s “modeling” videos. We see Kurt’s highly suggestive series of paintings. We see Alex and Emily becoming exquisitely uncomfortable. However, we’re not stuck in a “yuppies in peril” thriller. Nor is this a gross-out comedy where the squares are terrorized by the weird couple. Well, not entirely.
The Overnight is really, really funny. But as risque and filthy as it is, it subverts your expectations and goes smarter and deeper than you might expect. We do have a mix of pretty broad caricatures (the insecure dad, the uptight mom), but the film takes those tropes and unwraps them, trying to find the reality beneath. Each of the four main characters has a specific goal, and we can empathize with what their going for to a degree. Plus, the film never forgets that we’re dealing with couples that, in their own ways, love each other. In the midst of the insanity, there’s listening, support and communication.
There’s a couple of factors working in the film’s favor. First, is a cast that’s absolutely fearless. For a while now, Adam Scott has been building a specific comic persona, particularly on Parks And Recreation. Here, he’s able to push that persona into a more raw and real performance. Taylor Schilling has been making a name for herself on Orange Is The New Black, and she’s a fine match with Scott. Her Emily is the reasonable one of the group, the “good girl,” and it’s marvelous seeing the cracks in her facade and curiosity peeking out.
Scott’s also got excellent chemistry with Jason Schwartzman, who’s been creating a niche for himself as a loathsome hipster. As Kurt, he’s a little too touchy-feely, the guy in your circle of friends who seems slightly desperate to make some sort of connection. Judith Godreche’s Charlotte is more than the stereotypical French sexpot, and you can feel her tamped-down loneliness.
Bear in mind that The Overnight isn’t just a swinger comedy. Patrick Brice’s script is witty and perceptive, and not only do you get the sense that he cares about his characters, but he’s willing to follow them to the story’s logical conclusion. This is Brice’s second feature, the first being Creep, costarring the omnipresent indie filmmaker Mark Duplass. He’s one to watch.
Soon, the wretched-looking Pixels will be released. It stars Adam Sandler, a man who specializes in making comedies that aren’t funny. You may have seen the trailer, had brief suicidal feelings, and bemoaned the state of American comedy. Instead of enduring that nightmare, go see The Overnight. It’s funny as hell, smart, and you’ll be amazed at what they can do with prosthetics these days.