The Overnight


            Ever have one of those unexpected evenings where everyone imbibes a little too much and the social conventions suddenly start eroding?  And you maybe did some things you wouldn’t tell your preacher about?  Or your Mother?

            Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) begin this movie by providing a sound track for a rather awkward sex scene.  They are trying to do the things that please the other, but somehow it’s awkward and isn’t working, and in the end, well, it appears that everybody’s on their own, until suddenly their little boy bursts into the room, when the audience laughs nervously and the characters try mightily to pretend they really weren’t doing anything.  Well, we feel for them, because all married couples, at times, attempt to enjoy each other without, well, anyone really enjoying it very much.  The apostle Paul was apparently asked to address this delicate issue by the Corinthians, and he intones, “Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time…and then come together gain, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control”  (I Corinthians 7:5). Nice to hear from the expert.

            Anyway, Alex and Emily shortly find themselves in the park with their young son, where he seems to have suddenly  found a playmate about his age.  The little boy’s Dad, Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), quickly invites Alex and Emily over for dinner, assuring them that it’s no problem with his wife, Charlotte (Judith Godreche).  Alex and Emily, wanting to make friends in their new neighborhood (they’ve just moved from Seattle to L.A.), accept, and at first, the evening just seems like an ordinary couples dinner, with their sons playing well together in the next room.  But when Emily feels that it’s time to go home, Kurt and Charlotte prevail upon them to stay, saying the boys can have a sleepover upstairs, and the adults can have another glass of wine together.  Alex and Emily accept.  Then it starts getting weird.

            Somehow it seems so California:  a little bong, a little skinny dipping, a lot more wine, and suddenly we’ve let our guards down so much we seem to be tiptoeing toward partner swapping, except that Writer/ Director Patrick Brice once more has the kids crashing into the bedroom just before things start to get too weird.  (Though there were several walkouts in the screening I attended.  Apparently they were overexposed and overstimulated and underamused.)

            Sexual confusion as couples comedy?  Well, it’s a daring attempt.  Alex even freely admits to his complex penis inadequacy, and Emily, in reference to Kurt, her penis envy.  Hmmm.  Over-the-top for some, not quite resolved enough for others.  And yes, it is uncomfortable to address intimate issues not normally discussed on the big screen, but then, that’s supposed to be part of the dark humor.  The implication seems to be, “Everybody’s at least a little bit messed up sexually, it’s just that we don’t often know that about others.”  Well, that may be true, but that may also be more information than most genteel viewers wish to witness.  The new friends don’t, in fact, become friends, and their next encounter in the park is suitably awkward.  As is the viewers’ exit from the theater.  You’re not sure whether to laugh out loud or try to avoid eye contact.  Maybe both simultaneously. 


Questions for Discussion:

1)       Have you been in a social situation that threatened to get out of hand because of too much libation?  What was your response?

2)      Where do people get to talk about their sexual fears and inadequacies?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kaufman