Watching talented actors taking their best shots is the main virtue of “The Overnight,” a sex comedy in the mumblecore vein that’s otherwise an iffy proposition.
This story of a strange encounter between two youngish couples takes a surprisingly genial tone in dealing with some very naughty topics, but in the end it seems thin, and willing to paper over obvious questions.
The first half provides most of the pleasure. Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) and their young son have just moved to Los Angeles from Seattle. The opening sequence makes it unmistakable — and I do mean unmistakable — that there are issues in the marriage. At the playground, they meet eccentric but friendly Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), whose son has bonded with the couple’s boy. Kurt invites them over that evening for pizza.
At Kurt’s lavish home, they meet his unreservedly affectionate French wife, Charlotte (Judith Godreche). As the evening progresses, stimulants flow freely, and Kurt’s smooth, worldly demeanor begins to suggest dissipation. The hinting comes to an abrupt end when Kurt shows a scene from a movie featuring “actress” Charlotte, demonstrating that the host and hostess live in an extremely fast and kinky lane.
Kurt shows Alex his paintings — a kind you’re unlikely to see at the dentist’s office — and the women make a hush-hush visit to a massage parlor. I guess I can’t put it off any longer: One of the major themes here is penis size, and be assured that the film doesn’t tiptoe around the issue.
I leave you to guess whether Kurt and Charlotte are interested in hijinks involving their guests. On that question, Alex proves unbelievably slow on the uptake.
Writer-director Patrick Brice — working under executive producers Mark and Jay Duplass, whose influence is clear — tries to meld the genteel and the transgressive (if that’s even possible), but doesn’t fully succeed here. The raunchy stuff gets laughs, but the film eventually backs away from it, trying to have it both ways.
Scott does his usual shtick, which works well here. Schilling and Godreche make the most of thinner roles. But the real joy is watching Schwartzman as a comic rake, both suave and repulsive. It’s a nice addition to a career playing misfits, beginning with Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore.”
(At Barrywoods, Glenwood Arts, Independence, Studio 28, Town Center.)
Rated R | Time: 1:20