'The Overnight' (R)

You think making friends is tough when you’re a kid? Try doing it when you’re an adult. That’s the real-world dilemma in which Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) find themselves after moving from Seattle to Los Angeles. The prospect seems especially daunting for Alex, a stay-at-home dad.

Then, one day at the park, they meet another father there with his son. Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) is California-odd but friendly enough in his sugar-is-poison, vegan-superior way (he pries a gummy candy right out of the hand of their little boy). Alex and Emily are so starved for adult interaction you can practically hear them think: But he means well.

So when Kurt invites the family over for dinner so the boys can play, Alex and Emily say yes. Kurt’s French wife, Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), seems gracious. Dinner turns into a sleepover for the kids — and something entirely more adult for the couples. As the evening wears on, and bottles of wine are emptied and replaced with hard liquor and weed, a perverse sexual undercurrent surfaces.

Or does it? Alex and Emily aren’t sure. Also, they’re wasted. Sometimes skinny dipping is just skinny dipping. But what about those bizarre paintings of Kurt’s? And those videos of Charlotte?

Written and directed by Patrick Brice — whose previous project was Creep, in which he co-starred with Mark Duplass — The Overnight is the sort of a low-budget comedy that relies largely on its solid ensemble cast to sell its premise. The actors work well together, especially Schwartzman as the enigmatic Kurt, who flashes from friendly to smarmy to creepy so seamlessly you begin to share Emily’s growing concern (they want us to be swingers with them, she tells Alex, who is far too stoned and too happy at the prospect of reliving his younger days to care).

The Overnight clocks in at a swift 79 minutes, a smart move; as a padded-out two-hour comedy it would have grown unbearable. The film’s humor is more likely to elicit uneasy chuckles than howls of hilarity (although the question of whether Alex can let go of his inhibitions and take his pants off around the well-endowed Kurt is pretty damned amusing; the whole conversation culminates in an awkward naked dance that turns out to be the movie’s funniest moment).

In the end The Overnight promises more than it can deliver: Some of the supposedly provocative material ends up being juvenile, and the movie ends just as the situation gets truly, weirdly interesting. It’s too tame a resolution to a film that suggested the capacity for more.

Cast: Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, Judith Godrèche.

Writer/director: Patrick Brice.

A The Orchard release. Running time: 79 minutes. Strong sexuality, graphic nudity, language and drug use. Playing in Miami-Dade: Aventura, South Beach.

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