I’ve never really been a big fan of the mumblecore movement. Granted, I’ve not necessarily been a detractor, per se, as occasionally mumblecore has achieved some interesting moments in modern movie making. But for the most part, I’ve found the entire movement to be cloying and chock full of hipster pseudo-intellectualism masquerading as highbrow delights. While the typical mumblecore film might work well on stage, on screen is entirely different and the efforts tend to be, at best, stilted.
While The Overnight doesn’t fit entirely into the mumblecore mold (most notably in its use of well-known actors) it does represent a legitimization of the movement. For that reason, I went into the film with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, daring the movie to break through my jaded walls and offer me something to be impressed by. Though I can’t rightly say I was overly impressed with the film, I’m forced to admit that it does have its charms and, as low as its aims might be, it succeeded admirably in what it set out to do.
The film follows Alex and Emily (Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott and Orange is the New Black’s Taylor Schilling), recent LA transplants from Seattle who are worried about making friends in a new town. Added to this are the stresses of finding time for intimacy as parents; while their relationship isn’t suffering, their love life is, as we see them try (and fail) to get it on quietly before their son wakes up. While still settling into life in LA, Alex and Emily meet Kurt (the always delightful Jason Schwartzman) in the neighborhood park, who quickly invites the couple to his home for dinner with his wife and kids and a night entertaining relaxation. As the couples go through their evening, it seems more and more likely that Kurt and his wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche) have something a little bit more in mind than a friendly evening.
The concept of a “mature sex comedy” seems to be a contradiction, but that’s exactly what we’ve been given with The Overnight. While, in a way, it did confirm my biases against mumblecore (The Overnight would indeed make for a fantastic stage show) it manages to have an undeniable heart throughout the madcap and uncomfortable comedy upon which the film is based.
Schwartzman steals the show from Scott and Schilling, portraying Kurt with the sort of lackadaisical, faux European vibe that has become the LA stereotype in recent years. He does a little of this and a little of that to earn his living, holding a patent for a water purification system meant to bring clean water to third world countries as well as trying his hands at being an artist. As an artist, he’s truly in his asshole phase, using his, um, talents, to paint close up portraits of his, his wife’s, and his friend’s assholes. He and Charlotte are the perfect antithesis of Alex and Emily’s normalcy, creating a tension of ideology between the couples that forms the base of most of the comedy.
And yes, the film is pretty funny. Schwartzman and Scott play well off of each other, bringing their characters wholly to life. Done with subtlety, The Overnight succeeds creating humor in the uncomfortable as both couples engage in a series of misunderstandings and miscommunications. While it does seem pretty apparent from the get go that Kurt and Charlotte are swingers in search of their good time, the question is left mostly unanswered until the climax, leaving you to wonder if it’s sex they’re after, or if this is simply a comedy of differing values coming to a head.
While it didn’t change my opinions on the merits of mumblecore, The Overnight still managed to be a watchable and often hilarious movie that was, ultimately, charming. It’s not a movie for everyone, but fans of indie comedy will find a lot to love in this little gem.
The Overnight is now playing.