'The Overnight': Sundance Review

Courtesy of Sundance International Film Festival
Taylor Schilling in 'The Overnight'
A sporadically amusing but not massively well-endowed throwback to that quaint relic, the swinger comedy

Newly transplanted Seattleites Taylor Schilling and Adam Scott make friends and explore new sexual horizons in freewheeling Los Angeles.

Sweet, silly and as easy to enjoy as it is to forget ten minutes after the credits roll, The Overnight could almost be a 21st century riff on Paul Mazursky’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, offering far less in the way of social context than it does in contemplation of that eternal male fixation: penis size. Executive-produced by prolific indie darlings Mark and Jay Duplass, writer-director Patrick Brice’s slender comedy could almost be a raunchy episode idea for the Duplass brothers’ HBO series Togetherness.

While unlikely to register far beyond the VOD arena, the film should gain some momentum from its appealing leads, with Jason Schwartzman’s spectacular prosthetic enhancement and Adam Scott’s less enviable one providing obvious talking points. A full-frontal poolside dance interlude shows the two actors to be game sports.

See more The Scene at Sundance Film Festival 2015

The movie opens, appropriately, in the bedroom, with newly relocated Seattle couple Alex (Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) attempting some recreational lovemaking with less-than-satisfying results, even before their young son (R.J. Hermes) bursts into the room. While Emily appears fairly content with their three-person unit, Alex is hungry to acquire some local friends. The opportunity presents itself at a kids’ playdate in the park, where another parent, the gregarious and preternaturally self-assured Kurt (Schwartzman), approaches them, expressing his approval of their choice of Los Angeles neighborhood and inviting them over for pizza night.

Kurt lives in a stylish gated mansion with his effervescent French wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche) and their son (Max Moritt). Though it’s revealed that Kurt has a business interest in desalinized water, the source of the couple’s wealth is unclear at first. It certainly doesn’t come from Kurt’s studio full of colorful acrylic butthole studies, a series he dubs “Portals.” It also seems unlikely that Charlotte’s acting work, doing breast pump demonstration DVDs, is a big earner. Or is it?

When the kids are put to bed, the adults play on, and the sexual tension that’s been rippling through the air gets turned up a few notches. While Emily finds herself tickled by the unaccustomed pleasure of female company, she grows nervous as their hosts’ vibe shifts from fun-loving flirts to swingers. But Alex is emboldened after Kurt erases his insecurities about his physical inadequacies, steering them all into surprising positions.

The film’s attempt to depict all four principal characters as hungering for a connection that their relationships are not fulfilling doesn’t entirely convince. That’s largely because Kurt and Charlotte are such worldly sophisticates that it’s hard to imagine them in the age of Tinder and Grindr having to rely on chance encounters. But there’s a breezy spirit and an agreeable touch of tenderness to the movie that makes it hard not to like, even if it never accumulates much substance.

Brice previously made the SXSW-premiered thriller Creep, which featured Mark Duplass. He confidently manages a tone that snugly embraces the comedy of awkwardness and embarrassment, a hint of sitcom and talky indie terrain. But the writer-director’s very narrow field of interest holds the film back, never really revealing much about the characters beyond their negotiation of the long night of sexual soul-baring and physical antics.

What keeps The Overnight cooking is the cast, and as an acting exercise, it offers plenty of fun. Schilling has shown more skin and done racier scenes in numerous Orange Is the New Black episodes, but she and the very endearing Scott are a delightful double-act as the sexually frustrated new kids in town. Schwartzman often specializes in studied abrasiveness but he’s all eccentric charm here, even revealing a vulnerable side late in the game. And while Godreche might be the least natural fit, she brings a welcome dash of European class.

Production companies: Gettin’ Rad Productions, Duplass Brothers Productions

Cast: Judith Godreche, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, Adam Scott, R.J. Hermes, Max Moritt

Director-screenwriter: Patrick Brice

Producer: Naomi Scott

Executive producers: Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Adam Scott

Director of photography: John Guleserian

Production & costume designer: Theresa Guleserian

Music: Julian Wass

Editor: Chris Donlon

Sales: ICM/Submarine

No rating, 80 minutes.