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There is no GPS system for human relationships. If your marriage is at a crossroads one choice of direction seems as good or bad as another. Gazing helplessly at the signposts, your engine thrumming, you will roll down the window to any stranger offering help and guidance.
That’s what the couple in The Overnight do, a cruelly funny indie American comedy about love, sex and mid-life panic. Mid-life? Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling aren’t yet 40. It’s their sex life that has got old and flat. So as new-to-town Angelenos they perk up nervously — wouldn’t you? — when stranger Jason Schwartzman, met in a park, banters them back to his mansion for an intimate dinner party. There the wine flows, and the chat, and at midnight the kids (one per couple) are put to bed. Schwartzman and his blonde French partner (Judith Godrèche) are friendly; a bit too friendly . . . Are these “good California vibes”, Scott asks Schilling in a moment alone, or — alarm bell — “is there a swingers vibe?”
Patrick Brice’s mordant movie has a bit of Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young — the going-staid couple emotionally kidnapped by the befriending new-agers — and a bit of The Comfort of Strangers. That was the spooky 1990 Paul Schrader drama from Ian McEwan’s novel about sex and sadomasochism in darkly welcoming Venice.
The Overnight is horribly funny and gets more so: titillating and terrifying in equal measure. Confession sessions; skinny dips in the swimming pool; drugs; a bit of erotic photography. That’s after Schwartzman has shown Scott round his photo-art inspired by, let’s say, unusual parts of the human anatomy. Meanwhile Godrèche takes Schilling for a ride to a massage parlour so her new friend can take a peephole look at Godrèche’s night job. The film’s final pay-off is as comical-appalling as its ineluctable build-up. The producers are the Duplass brothers, famous for hit-and-miss mumblecore comedies. This comedy is all hit.