We’ve all been there — you and your loved one are invited to a dinner party at another young couple’s home, and when all the kids are tucked away, guards come down, pants too, and a night of crossfaded sexual exploration and swinging begins.
Okay, maybe most of us haven’t been there, but with characters and expressed desires familiar to anyone who has ever lived in Silver Lake or similar hippie-yuppie Los Angeles environs — or simply have imagined them — the comedy of The Overnight banks a lot on the trends of our era’s young professional elite, with their Rhodes pianos, customized water-distillation techniques, and frank discussions about sexual liberation.
The film goes for both relatable and ridiculous, imagining what may happen when those pretentious parents in our midst finally give in to their urge to tryst and try shit out. How funny or freeing you find it rests on how comfortable or prudish you are with things like fetish films, couple-swapping, and massive penises.
The Overnight is a comedy more of “Aren’t people weird?” than laugh-out-loud funny. We are perhaps meant to relate to the disorientation of straightlaced Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) as they alternately shy from and embrace mind expansion in the company of freely nude and expressive couple Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and Charlotte (Judith Godrèche). The awkward moments are good and the quirks generally funny at points, particularly Schartzman’s character. But it’s really more of a tender character study than the outrageous romp the hype foretells — the shocks aren’t that shocking, the weirds not that weird, unless you find male anatomy startling. It seems more like an open interrogation of monogamy, probing the limits of coupling and self-love.
Their unions do reach a limit, and just as the film takes it about as far as the R rating would allow, it pulls away. In the comedown, The Overnight feels like a journey you did join in, and perhaps you and yours may find some inspiration. But unless a night of marital discomfort and awkward sexploration sounds especially thrilling to you, there’s no need to invite yourself along.