“Without guilt, he wrote, sex would lose half the fun.” Roger Ebert penned this in 1971 in a two-star review of History of the Blue Movie. Ebert was paraphrasing Norman Mailer. Naturally, I read Roger, and I remember him often talking about sex in these terms—one time I remember that he said a film depicted sex when it was still “fun.”
Of course, sex became terribly complicated and decidedly less fun in the 1980s. As a teen back then my experience with sex was restricted to movies filtered through Roger’s suggestions whether a particular film reflected the act authentically. It helped that I worked in a large video store. Sex Ed via VHS…
Ebert may have really appreciated The Overnight and given it more than a two-star review. Now that I’m older and somewhat more experienced, I can say that this film gets sex accurately right from the opening scene.
The Overnight is a movie that is about the fun side of sex and that other side—the tipping point when it all goes bad. And for the most part the fun side carries the film, but it’s the serious stuff that ultimately makes the movie worth watching. Because sex is fun until it isn’t.
Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling play Alex and Emily, two young people who have just moved to a new neighborhood with their young son. They want to fit in, but like many aging hipsters they don’t want to let on that they just might need friends. Their coy act is interrupted when Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) introduces himself at the local park and casually invites them to dinner that very night. Well, of course, they have to go. And that’s when things get weird.
Kurt’s spacious mansion was quite a shock but Alex and Emily are not prepared for his beautiful French wife Charlotte (Judith Godrèche). When Alex sees the house, he hastily peels the label off their gas station bottle of cheap vino. There’s no way he’ll show up at the front door bearing such a pedestrian vintage—better pass it off as some home made concoction. After more than a few glasses of wine, marijuana comes into play, and Alex and Emily might just have to bunk with Kurt and Charlotte for the evening.
Part titillation and part cautionary tale, The Overnight is biting and real. The frank handling of sex may shock some viewers while others might think that the conclusion is a bit of cop-out. It is not enough that there is full-frontal male nudity in the film, the reason for the R or other rating is the way the characters talk about sex. I read that the male parts shown are prosthetics, but they certainly look real enough to be convincing. And the graphic display is not a gimmick but an integral part of the narrative. When Alex and Kurt show off their contrasting genitals, it’s less shocking and more interesting. These are visuals that matter and Scott and Schwartzman handle the scenes appropriately with Scott playing the timid one and Schwartzman, well, like Jason Schwartzman.
An actor who has made a career out of being arrogant while still remaining incredibly likable, Jason Schwartzman finds his mojo with Kurt. Earlier this year, he played a really unlikable writer in the super 16mm film Listen Up Philip, which was a solid and interesting film but hardly one that would make good repeat viewing. The Overnight is well worth revisiting to catch much of the nuance in the performances.
Sure, much of the interest in The Overnight is whether it is the “swinger” film. And the presence of Orange is the New Black star Taylor Schilling is a major selling point. But The Overnight is not about swinging, rather, it is about sex without the sex and what happens before and after.