The Overnight: swinging without the sniggering

Thu 25 Jun 2015 09.00 BSTLast modified on Fri 29 Dec 2017 22.49 GMT

No one wants the phrase “adult movies” showing up on their bank statement. But a film like The Overnight makes you want to reclaim those disreputable words on behalf of cinema genuinely made with adults in mind. Emily (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Adam Scott), recently arrived in Los Angeles with their young son, are trying to work out where they fit in – not only in their new neighbourhood, but with one another. The opening scene demonstrates that their sex life has its shortcomings and that this awkwardness extends beyond the bedroom. While Emily works, Alex takes their nipper to the playground, where father and son start casting around rather forlornly for new friends. Well, be careful what you wish for.

Into Alex and Emily’s life strolls Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), who is worryingly groovy (“You have a blinding aura of goodness and light”) and also suspiciously eager to welcome them into the home he shares with his French wife, Charlotte (Judith Godrèche). The bulk of the movie depicts in painful and painstaking detail the evening that these new BFFs spend together: the bonhomie, the booze, the bongs. Are they four adults on a play date, or are Alex and Emily being groomed for something more sordid?Play VideoPlayCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time0:00Loaded: 0%Progress: 0%FullscreenMute The Overnight trailer

Long before Kurt invites Alex to come upstairs to see his etchings – or, in this case, down into the Freudian basement to see his paintings of buttholes – there is something off-kilter about him. Schwartzman never lets us know exactly what Kurt wants. And the film itself is no easier to pin down. On the one hand, it shows us Kurt clearly pressuring Alex and Emily – he’s adept at making them feel gauche whenever they resist one of his suggestions. Then again, it is through his challenges that their relationship is tested and even fortified. The moral certainties in the movie keep shifting, along with our allegiances.

Cinema has tended to be both prurient and censorious on the subject of swinging. Coming at the end of the 1960s, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice removed some of the shine from free love, questioning the gains that come with disinhibition. The Ice Storm, made in 1997 but set at the start of the 1970s, went one further, using key parties and partner-swapping as a harbinger of doom and even death.

The Overnight is smarter than either. Like I Love You, Man, it broaches the question of loneliness in adulthood. Along with Humpday (which starred Mark Duplass, one of the producers of The Overnight), it nudges at the limits of the bromance – though it goes where that film feared to tread. It also casts an interrogative light on relationships that is distinct from the sitcom-esque tenor that usually surrounds the subject. Indeed, it’s what This Is 40 might have been if the number in the title hadn’t referred to the percentage of its insights that rang true.

Source: The Guardian

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