Some might argue that bad sex is better than no sex at all. The Overnight begs to differ, opening with a revealing scene that shows just how compromised the joys of intimacy can become after years of recycled habits. Thirty-something couple Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) whisper strained sweet nothings to each other as they awkwardly tussle between the sheets, all the while trying not to wake up their young son in the other room. It's all so rushed and stressful, like watching two runners battle for position during a race. Let's just say nobody finishes first.
Alex and Emily haven't fallen out of love, per se, but have fallen into a psychological rut. Having just moved to Los Angeles from Seattle, the couple worries that they won't be able to make friends or stake out an identity as a family. While visiting the local neighborhood park they meet a strange but alluring hipster father of another young boy. Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) instantly extends a magnetic welcome, inviting Alex and Emily over for dinner that very same night. Impulsively, they accept.
Upon arriving at the posh villa Kurt owns with his French wife Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), Alex and Emily feel instantly at home thanks to their host's generosity and charisma. It's almost too good to be true. Alcohol and conversations flow easily. Then come the drugs, nudity and eventual temptation. What seems like an initially tame night of adult interaction turns into a much wilder and possibly life-changing descent into lunacy for both couples.
The Overnight subverts our expectations within this very familiar construct. At first, we think this is Alex and Emily's movie, a portrait of a boring marriage in subtle disrepair that experiences a momentary resurgence after spending time with Kurt and Charlotte. But director Patrick Brice quickly turns the story into a mosaic, detailing individual desires and insecurities for each couple that threaten to undermine the "stability" usually associated with longterm relationships.
That the film doesn't see this thematic notion as full-blown tragedy is a testament to its hopeful and progressive nature. Never painted as satire or critique, The Overnight instead functions as a seamless (and funny) romp that seeks to free its characters from emotional and physical repetition. All of the shenanigans taking place work toward this goal, whether it's the couples' skinny-dipping escapade punctuated by full frontal male nudity or the scandalous side trip to a shady massage parlor. Such experiences might not always be comfortable, but they awaken a much-needed vitality.
Many of the film's charms stem from the performances themselves. All four actors trade fleet verbal barbs in batty dialogue sequences that showcase the joys of comedic timing and slapstick. Schilling, known for her lead role on the Netflix show Orange is the New Black, might be the most surprising revelation. Her Emily could have easily been a heightened and irrational stereotype, but the actress manages to oscillate between multiple different emotions depending on the moment. Schwartzman and Godrèche are also especially good, embodying a uniquely strange and conflicted couple that is far more complex than their sunny façade suggests.
The Overnight, which opens Friday, June 26, ends with a surprisingly tender and honest sex scene that nicely contrasts with the manic prologue. For the first time, it's not about the orgasmic end result, but getting lost in the process of feeling sexy again. Sure, the realities of parenthood and middle age are still loudly present, but Brice makes it a point to show these people figuring out how to exist within both worlds on their own terms.
For Alex, Emily, Kurt and Charlotte, emotional collaboration means taking on the stresses and pressures of your partner's hang-ups head on without judgment. The Overnight sees this as a universal reference point. They are who they are, and that's okay.
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