Patrick Brice may not be a filmmaker you've heard of, but with two interesting films being released this month, he's bound to make a splash. The first, which stars Mark Duplass, is Creep. The second, which opened in Miami last week and opens further this Friday, is The Overnight. It's a strange adult comedy of sorts that involves sex, but can't quite be labeled a sex comedy. The film revolves around two couples who are enjoying their first night hanging out together when things get, well, weird.
While on the phone with him, and one of the four stars of the film, Jason Schwartzman, Brice dove into conversation about his film. "It's a comedy that deals with sex," he states plainly, denying the "sex comedy" label himself.
"Sex has definitely always been on the mind and I’m very lucky I’ve been able to filter it in a way into my work. There’s a situation with The Overnight where it's about self-acceptance and the acceptance of others, and people wouldn’t normally be watching a movie about this kind of thing when talking about sex in movies."
And there's a certain maturity to what Brice presents with The Overnight that most adult comedies don't have when they approach sex. Schwartzman - who stars alongside Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, and Judith Godrèche in the film - was instantly drawn to the project:
"The idea appealed to me, to attempt to make a movie about two couples who find themselves; where all of these things about them are called into question even though they think they know each other," Schwartzman says. "There's so many intricate levels to a relationship and I think it shows that in a very beautiful way because I think some of the most cathartic things to happen in your life come about in the most unexpected ways. It's almost like a positive car crash."
"It's nice to make a movie that talks about male body issues and sexual curiosity, but not make it negative or mean. It's about friendship and couples being together and trying to make their love and lives work together. And anything that can do that, smuggling in these bigger themes and moments, it's like medicine and sugar. If you can get the right spoonful of sugar and the right spoonful of medicine, then it's good."
And just the right dose of both it is, with the way it unravels the relationships within the film never coming across as mean-spirited. There isn't a moment in the film, which is heavy on sexually related material that bounces between romantic and uncomfortable, that feels as though it wants to shame characters for who they are. For a work of art that features open relationships and scenes where a couple has to "sit next to each other and jerk off to cum" (as the characters say), no intimate detail is played for cruel laughs.
"Especially in comedies, there [are] a lot of fingers being pointed," Brice says. "I'm glad people are entertained by the movie because, as a filmmaker, that's my hope first and foremost, but on another level, I hope this movie is kind of being a little subversive in setting a model for self-acceptance, acceptance of others, and hopefully a model of love. And dealing with love in a way that's hopefully honest and true, while also having grotesque dick jokes at the same time."
It's here he speaks about the prosthetic dicks that both Schwartzman and Scott wear in The Overnight, offering up full-frontal male nudity where so many films made for adults shy away from that instead. As totally ridiculous as the fake dicks are when they pop up on screen, Schwartzman actually found himself fond of it and comfortable with it off-screen too.
"Honestly, I think if we had made this movie and I was wearing a bathing suit the whole time, I would have been way more freaked out because it would have been my love handles, my calves, something isn't really in good shape, or whatever," the actor admits.
"I hate pool parties. If someone invited me to one, it'd be like a torture chamber. The Fourth of July is not one of my favorite holidays. With the prosthetic, it's like I'm naked, but it goes over in such a strange way that it took a long of the pressure off. You aren't actually naked, you aren't in a bathing suit, you're in a unique situation. I don't know if protected is the right word, but it was kind of wonderful, I really enjoyed it."
As fun as it was off-screen though, the appendage proved to be a huge moment as well. "Sometimes you see these things and it's a big goof," he adds. "But, y'know, that's not what this movie is. The prosthetics are important to the character. The full frontal is a big goofy moment, in my opinion, but also a character breakthrough and a big leap to take. And I think it's great that this movie has both."
The discussion of body image is something that The Overnight undoubtedly takes seriously—just as seriously as it takes the reality of how couples would actually react to situations. Few films actually acknowledge that people in relationships want to have sex with other people without directly making them cheat on their partner or feel ashamed of it.
There's a clear intimacy to every scene between the two couples in the film, and when asked about the way he wrote that in, Brice revealed that he let the actors play with the script a bit. "It was fully-scripted, but we allowed ourselves to be nimble with it. The script was an anchor that the actors could go back to at any point, but if they wanted to change a line or react in a certain way that's emotionally true, then they were allowed to go there," he explains.
"For example, the last scene was originally written as serious and dramatic, with a lot more tension, but once we got to that point after shooting chronologically, we looked back and built from what felt true in the moment. We were going to be pushing believability a little bit, but what winds up happening in this climax is this sort of moment of tenderness."
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And Schwartzman certainly feels the same about the way the relationships unfolded in the film, as behind the scenes they'd had ten nights together before getting to the end, which we won't spoil here.
"I think that was always the hope," he says. "It's not about shame. All four of these people need to move on as people and as a group of friends, they're all there for each other. We didn't want to make a movie where two people are into the other two people and people are preying on each other like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which is one of my favorite movies. It's a sport for Martha and George, but it's not a sport for these people. They're attracted to these people, but they also really want to just be friends."
Follow Juan Barquin on Twitter @woahitsjuanito