The Overnight” combines outrageous interpersonal situations with universally recognizable human foibles to humorous and memorable effect. With a pedigree let’s call “mainstream indie” — it stars Jason Schwartzman and comes from the Duplass Brothers’ production company — it stays fast and loose as it tells the story of an increasingly fraught visit between two married couples and their two 4-year-old sons.
The ever-pleasant and believable Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling (“Orange is the New Black”) play recent transplants to Los Angeles, settled at home but lonely without any social connections in their new city. At their neighborhood park, their son starts playing with another little boy, whose dad soon makes friendly introductions.
This character is Jason Schwartzman, and from his hipster outfit to his disarmingly ingratiating manner, he is hilarious and spot-on. You immediately wonder why he’s so nice, and his behavior goes on to form the central question of the plot. What exactly is the deal with this guy?
Declaring himself “the mayor” of the neighborhood, which he also declares to be the coolest around, he invites the couple and their kid to pizza night at his house that very evening, which sounds casual and normal. From the moment the intimidated couple enter the imposing gate of what turns out to be his gigantic home, however, things do not remain casual or normal.
His gorgeous French wife is awfully friendly too, and they just can’t let their new friends go home because everyone is having so much fun (Are they?). I don’t want to spoil the plot, because wondering what is going to happen is a big part of the movie. Let’s just say prosthetic cast members are involved.
While the appeal of the movie might begin with a voyeuristic impulse to see what craziness is going to happen, the cast carries the story with perfect comic timing and excellent performances all around. Even when the plot gets queasy, there is a quality of sensitivity to it.
The dialogue is pretty tight and well-written, especially as the characters lose their grip. The characters might have been out of control, but the director was not. Adam Scott as a drunk, annoying husband is every drunk, annoying husband. The actors make it all too easy to imagine yourself, no matter what your actual life is like, in their shoes.
However outlandish the outcome, the anxieties the characters act upon come from a very familiar place, from a desire to still feel young and hopefully even cool, as you navigate being a parent. No matter how crazy things got by the pool, there were two 4-year-olds upstairs, and the knowledge that they can wake at any moment is a very real one for every parent.
You may never have been propositioned by a beautiful married French woman who makes sexy instructional breast pumping videos, but you have probably made that face Taylor Schilling makes when she sees it. The adventures in “The Overnight” are at once unbelievable and totally believable, and the actors create very real, very funny characters. Plus it’s really short, so you can probably watch the whole movie before your 4-year-old wakes up.