The story begins when Emily (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Adam Scott), a married coupled transplanted from Seattle to Los Angeles for work, meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), an outgoing man who chats them up in a local park. Their kids hit it off so Kurt invites the couple over for pizzas and wine with his wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche). Eager to make friends, Emilia and Alex accept and enter a world ripe with sexual tension, voyeurism, skinny-dipping and self confession. What begins as a dinner party quickly erupts into part drug and drink binge, part therapy session. “This is California,” says the slightly naïve Adam, “maybe this is what dinner parties are like here.”
On the surface “The Overnight” is simply about that moment when, as they say in the film, the party turns from freewheeling California vibe to swinger vibe but that doesn’t do the story justice. That’s the Cole’s Notes version of the story but the actual tale is much more interesting.
This is a parlour show where most of the action takes place in one place. Think “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” In this case the bulk the story happens in Kurt and Charlotte’s upscale home as the older, more jaded couple wile away the hours, breaking down Emily and Adam’s inhibitions while revealing their own martial issues and weaknesses. It’s a power struggle with a constantly shifting dynamic that turns into a guessing game as to what, exactly, is going on. It is that ambiguity that propels the action forward.
Good casting keeps things interesting—Schwartzman is smarmy perfection—and at just 80 minutes “The Overnight” is the right length for a cat and mouse story. Any longer and this story of sexual frustration might have become frustrating, but director Patrick Brice brings the story to an end before the anxiety of the situation becomes too uncomfortable for the audience.