Watching “The Overnight” is a little like taking in a game when Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is on the mound. No really.
The delivery is unorthodox. You might think you know what’s coming, but then comes another curveball that catches you by surprise. You’re kept guessing throughout — and it’s a real kick when you’re wrong yet again.
Writer-director Patrick Brice has fashioned a sharp, quite nutty, offbeat gem with some of the most hilarious sexual hijinks in recent memory and some keen insights into the mindset of youngish parents who are devoted to their children but are also trying desperately to hang on to their self-perceived coolness.
They don’t want to be defined by their mom- and dad-ness. They’re still up for anything!
Such great casting in this film. Adam Scott (so terrific as Ben Wyatt on “Parks and Recreation”), master of the tightly wound straight man character, plays Alex, and Taylor Schilling (“Orange Is the New Black”) is his wife Emily.
This sweet, happily married couple with a wonderful little boy has just moved from Seattle to a trendy section of Los Angeles, and they’re feeling a little lost and overwhelmed. It’s not just their son who needs to make new friends; Alex and Emily are isolated as well.
Enter Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), a hipster-looking guy who sees his child bonding with Alex and Emily’s son at the park and invites them over to his house that evening for pizza. (Schwartzman consistently strikes unique and dryly perfect notes as Kurt, who has an oddly charming way of communicating. It’s socially seductive, but a small part of you wonders if this guy is in a cult or has stored body parts in a freezer in his garage.)
When Alex and Emily arrive at Kurt’s address, bottle of “Two-Buck Chuck” wine in hand, it’s one curveball after another. For one thing, Kurt’s house is a sprawling mansion that looks like it belongs to the owner of an NBA team or an Internet multi-millionaire. Then there’s Kurt’s wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche), a beautiful and sophisticated French actress who specializes in a certain kind of film I’m not going to describe, other than to say I believe this is the first time in mainstream movie history such a film career has been examined. (It’s not what you think it is. Unless you have a frighteningly creative imagination.)
Kurt and Charlotte seem like wonderful parents. The kids are getting along so famously, the pizza party turns into a sleepover. Kurt sings them to sleep with a beautiful lullaby. What a guy!
Once the kids are safely tucked in and fast asleep, “The Overnight” turns into a surreal odyssey in which Kurt bonds with Alex, and Charlotte bonds with Emily, and then all four of them bond — but again, maybe not like you’d expect. There’s some fantastically startling full-frontal nudity; much drinking and pot smoking; more drinking and pot smoking, and multiple occasions in which Alex and Emily huddle up to discuss and debate the situation, and whether they should call it a night or keep going and see where the adventure takes them.
“The Overnight” reminded me a little of “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” a commercial and critical hit from 1969 about two Los Angeles couples contemplating a foursome. Brice’s movie has much more of an indie tone than Paul Mazursky’s film and of course these are very different times — but in both instances, the titillation factor is merely the vehicle for substantial and authentic observation.
All four leads in “The Overnight” are outstanding. Schwartzman takes his familiar persona — the guy who keeps you off-balance and just might be a jerk but maybe he isn’t — and gives it a fresh twist. Scott’s performance is bravely self-deprecating. Schilling’s double takes and triple takes are sublime. Godreche takes what could have been a clichéd character and makes her three-dimensional.
This is one terrifically twisted parental play date.