About two thirds of the way into Patrick Brice’s orgiastic comedy, The Overnight, which opened in New York this past weekend, a very high Emily (Taylor Schilling) offers up a little wisdom a little too late to her even-more-stoned husband, Alex (Adam Scott). “I think we’ve reached that point in the evening,” she says with a glassy-eyed sense of calm, “where it’s time to go before anything crazy happens.” Having already hit the bong and swam naked with a couple they met less than 24 hours prior, the two are well past the point of no return.
Fresh off the plane from Seattle, Emily and Alex are clearly strangers in the strange land of Los Angeles: they refer to their son’s missing lone pair of shorts as “summer pants” and express anxiety about making new friends at this stage in their lives. “I’m a grownup. Am I just supposed to go up to other grownups and say, ‘Do you want to be my friend?’” Alex asks his wife, genuinely clueless. So when they’re approached on the playground by the ultra-gregarious Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) after their sons hit it off in the sandbox, the couple is quick to accept his dinner invitation, even if they’re taken aback by his overwhelming extraversion. But what begins as a civilized evening quickly devolves into a night of imbibing and eventual seduction—though perhaps not in the way you might expect—as boundaries are constructed only to be torn down.
From the perspective of the relatively straight-laced Alex and Emily, Kurt and his buxom French wife, Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), are as frustratingly elusive as they are undeniably magnetic. They live impossibly wonderful lives and don’t seem to have a straight answer to the question “What do you do?” There’s a lot of “dabbling” and being “in between” things: Charlotte is an “actress” (she has a recurring role in a series of borderline pornographic infomercials for breast-pumps) and Kurt was maybe once an architect turned amateur painter—but his current passion project is the “desalinization of water through reverse osmosis.”
It’s with details like these that Brice manages to poke fun at this particular milieu of upper-class LA thirtysomethings with affectionate accuracy: Alex’s solution to his embarrassment of arriving at a Hollywood mansion with a bottle of Two Buck Chuck, for example, is to rip off the label and pass off the wine as the product of a friend’s organic farm in Napa that only uses recycled bottles.
Affectionate is perhaps the key word when it comes to The Overnight, a film whose over-the-top humor remains firmly grounded in the purest of emotional intentions. Much of this hinges on Schwartzman’s performance as Kurt, a true force of nature who might have easily come off as a psychopathic predator were it not for the actor’s ability to balance hyper confidence with an underlying sense of insecurity and genuinely good intentions. “Kurt truly thinks Adam’s character is just a great guy,” Schwartzman told The L Magazine in a recent interview. “It’s beyond his wildest imagination how great he thinks he is.” (Read our full interview with Schwartzman on the following page.)
There’s been a lot of chatter surrounding the film’s double money shot—an outlandish full-frontal scene in which the two men dance naked sporting prosthetic penises of drastically contrasting sizes. But while the visual gag is certainly worthy of uproarious laughter, it also distinguishes The Overnight as one of very few films to expose (pardon the pun) male body issues and sexual anxieties so directly. It’s this underlying honesty that makes The Overnight as oddly wholesome as it is subversive.
The L sat down with the affable (and strikingly tall) Patrick Brice to discuss everything from his writing process to the practicalities of penile prosthetics.
I know you shot your previous film, Creep, off of a ten-page outline, and before this had worked mostly on docs. Can you talk about your writing process for this film?
Yeah, it’s crazy because this movie is the first full script that I’ve ever completed. So there was a learning gap for sure. Comparing myself to Patrick the writer when I was writing and Patrick the director when I was shooting, the director would be mad at the writer from time to time because I had set up all these problems for myself that I then had to solve, unbeknownst to myself like six months later. For me, with each thing I do, it’s an intuitive thing—I’m just following my bliss and my interests.
With this movie just as with Creep and with my previous stuff, this was the opportunity that presented itself as a project and then it was me trying to fit my sensibility into that. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my first movie would be a found footage horror movie—that’s not a particular interest of mine or anything; making the film in that genre came as a result of starting with a production model, which was that Mark Duplass and I didn’t want to have any crew, we just wanted to make this film. It was immediate and it was about small, unexpected moments and this sort of documentary element of leaving things to chance. That allowed me to then trust those moments when it came to making something like this with a full crew and cast, but still trying to keep that observational eye.
These aren’t necessarily similar films, but the idea of escalation is key to both: the characters are persuaded to stay for a drink against their better judgment and suddenly it’s like, buckle up, here we go!
Yeah, I see some similarities. They’re both about trust, I think, and about the pitfalls of new people entering your life and what kind of boundaries are you setting up—and not setting up.
Right. I love that moment when Taylor Schilling’s character takes Scott’s character aside and says something like “I think we’ve reached that point in the evening where it’s time to leave before things get out of control…” Of course there’s humor there because things have already gone completely off the walls, but there’s also this very clear sense that neither of them really wants to leave.
That was a tricky balance to be able to find, because I knew that would be on the tip of the audience’s tongue the whole time—that question of why don’t they just leave?
I feel like the film has a lot of suspense, which is a word not traditionally associate with comedy.
Yeah, I wanted it to be something where people were laughing and engaged in the characters but also like, it just felt like another level to entertain people. To have momentum and keep things tight, keep things going. Personally, I don’t like when filmmakers are wasting my time when I’m watching a movie—especially when it comes to comedy, I feel like a lot of stuff these days you see like scenes that feel like they’re cut out of like twenty minutes of improv. And that’s great when you have the best people in the world doing that but where you’re having to make a movie in twelve days, we didn’t have a chance to do that, we just had to get it right.
From what I’ve read you shot the film only at night. I’m sure that in some ways that was great because it allowed you to only exist in the world of your movie, safely tucked away from the realities of daylight, but it must have been pretty trying in a lot of other ways.
It was cool because it represented a freedom that I feel like we wouldn’t have had if we were shooting during the day, but at the same time it’s like, just as for the most part you don’t make the best decisions at two in the morning—even when you’re not working—but when you are working… It’s that element of chance I was talking about. I’d be watching watching the footage back a couple months later and I’m listening to myself say “Ok, that’s it! We got it!” and then we don’t have it… you know? [Laughs] There’s a split happening there.
You shot at Adam Carolla’s house. The location is hugely important to the story given it unfolds entirely in one house—there’s a lot of different spaces within that one location. How did you come to that house specifically?
I wanted it to take place in that archetypal Los Angeles, Spanish-style house. But I wrote it without knowing where we were going to shoot it. So once we did get that location, which was after looking at like twenty and not really being happy because we had to find something that had space for our production—we wanted the entire production to exist in one house while shooting in that same house at the same time.
That space needed to feel dynamic also. We were able to achieve a lot of that through lighting and but there were a lot of options in that house—there’s a lot of weird rooms. Adam Carolla is a contractor, he builds houses and is super knowledgeable about that kind of stuff and so structurally the house is kind of amazing. It’s funny because going back to the same place every night to shoot, every night sort of runs into each other. It felt like one long night we were shooting. You don’t really sleep, also, you can’t sleep during the day—I don’t know if you can, but I can’t. So that whole time I was just in this sort of dream state. Coming home and sleeping for four hours and then coming back to this weird house above Hollywood making this ridiculous movie.
Did you tweak anything in the script specifically to fit the space once you found it?
Not really, it was more like checking off boxes in terms of locations in the house, but we changed some things. The art studio where Jason paints, that’s Adam Carolla’s garage where he works on his Lamborghinis, so it’s a total man in a cave—we had to add some flourishes to that and add some tool boxes. We had to move like a two hundred thousand dollar engine.
This role seems like it was written specifically for Jason Schwartzman. It’s that perfect combo of gregarious and insecure he plays so well. Did you in fact have him in mind while writing, or did he just simply get the script and make it his own?
He definitely just got the script and made it his own. He wasn’t someone that I had in mind—at first I saw that role as being more aggressive than he ended up playing it, and I’m so grateful that he ended up playing the way he did. There really needed to be a balance there in terms of the predatory stuff and the sweetness, or else it just could have been way too creepy. Because he comes off as someone who might not be trustworthy but you’re loving him and wanting to see more—only someone like Jason could’ve done that. He really is the nicest guy in real life and he really is that charismatic in real life.
This place where he’s at in his career right now is so exciting. This movie 7 Chinese Brothers and also Listen Up Philip. I just feel like there’s so much yet to be discovered in terms of what he’s capable of as an actor. He was one of the last people to come on and I feel so blessed that we were able to get him.
That balance that he pulls off is indicative of the tone of the whole movie, which is kid of this impossible mix of sincerity beneath everything outlandish that’s happening. Was that a conscious necessity while writing you knew you needed to have to pull this off or was that brought by the flesh and blood actors one you were actually shooting?
That wasn’t a conscious decision. I guess that was something that came intuitively during the writing and through thinking about other films that have tried to tackle this subject matter and for the most part not feeling like I’d seen something that touched me or felt real to me or represented my experience when it comes to sex and comedy. So that was a hunch trying to pull that off and I don’t think it could have worked without these particular actors. They all brought so much experience—every one of these guys has been acting since they were young teenagers, basically, so it was nice to have people who have this much experience. That’s what gave me the confidence to do this, because we didn’t have rehearsals or anything so, talk about leaving things up to chance! I literally didn’t even know what the chemistry was going to be like other than having conversations with everyone and getting the gist of everyone’s personality. So it was through those interactions, and explaining to each of them: this is the tone I’m going for, I know that when you read this it almost reads like a Farrelley brothers movie or something. But the way we’re going to shoot it, I wanted the performances to kind of be moment by moment and inject it with some realism; I thought it might be an interesting result.
I have to ask about the prosthetic penises, since that’s everyone’s favorite topic.
I love it because it’s like with that sigh that people always ask the question.
On the one hand it’s this very outlandish gag but it’s also the very serious root of the anxieties for both these characters that the entire movie hinges on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen male body/sexual anxieties portrayed on screen so bluntly. Was that visual in your head from the get-go?
For sure. When I was writing that was one of those moments when I came to that bit in the script that got me so excited because I wanted to see that scene in real life. So yeah, penises are funny –they look really funny, so on a base level of ape humor I was excited about that. But at the same time I wanted it there for a reason, I wanted it to exist to further the plot and to further your understanding of what these characters are going through.
I was excited about the idea of presenting a male vulnerability that I have not really seen in a real way. And also I didn’t want it to be something that was completely encompassing this guy’s life. I wanted it to be an issue—I felt like we only had so much time with these characters to present this as an issue and show him hopefully overcoming that a little bit. So it was just a matter of me trying to keep all this ridiculous stuff grounded I guess.
Read on for our interview with Jason Schwartzman.