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From the 1960’s through the ‘80’s, the filmmaker Radley Metzger made a series of what was termed at the time soft core films. This was a period in cinematic history when just about anything went, and many of these films, movies like Metzger’s The Lickerish Quartet and The Opening of Misty Beethoven, found a cross over audience in the mainstream cinema.
They weren’t as graphic as adult, or porn, films, but there was plenty of pretend sex and nudity and usually was a celebration of the new morality and an encouragement to the audience to reject old mores.
One of these, Score, was about a couple that liked to swing. On a regular basis, they would bring home couples for a night of whatever comes up. But this time round, they invite a particular married couple not with the purpose of having an orgy, but with the goal of the wife seducing the younger woman and the husband seducing the younger man.
And they succeed.
And it ends with the younger couple running off in joy as they have discovered themselves free to more fully explore their new found sexuality.
Though a fun film, it wasn’t very well written or acted and looked pretty flat in terms of direction. What it was mainly known for was its theme and approach to subject matter.
In 1969, filmmakers Larry Tucker and Paul Mazursky gave us the more accessible Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, about two couples who think about swinging. The script is much wittier, the acting far superior (especially Elliot Gould and Dyan Cannon) and the directing much stronger.
But when it came to theme, the two couples discover they just can’t go through with it. Critics at the time tended to accuse the filmmakers of taking the coward’s way out. And I can’t argue with that.
Now it’s 2015 and we have The Overnight, a comedy in the tradition of the above movies, written and directed by Patrick Brice in which a couple new to LA (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling as Alex and Emily) meet another couple in a park (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godréche as Kurt and Charlotte) and are invited over for pizza.
After both couples put the kids down (to sleep, not to, well, you know…c’mon, people, it’s not that kind of movie), the foursome continue the party as Kurt and Charlotte act stranger and stranger until eventually what they are after is revealed. And it’s pretty much, more or less, what you kind of expected from the beginning.
All in all, I would say that The Overnight is closer to Score in plot, but more like Bob & Carol… when it comes to quality and an ending that is…well, I’m sorry, I have to say it: far more cowardly and disappointing and even ridiculous than the Tucker and Mazursky film.
I mean, Kurt, when running into the couple again days later, apologizes for all that happened that night and says that he is now in therapy to deal with his issues.
Yes, you read that right. Therapy.
And no, I’m not kidding.
Where is Scientology when you need it?
I suppose it doesn’t help from my perspective that I’m not quite sure what these issues were exactly. Or that if they are what I think they might be, then for me he’s dealing with the wrong issues and that in today’s world, most people would have dealt with those issues already in college and gotten on with their lives long before now.
In fact, by the time the movie was over, to be honest, I didn’t know what the point was or why it was made. In fact, it sort of feels like a movie that hasn’t really been fully thought out.
I guess I’d have to say I just didn’t get it.
And, yes, you’re right. It could be my problem. So I’m more than willing to admit that it’s all on me, but I really do feel that it is dealing with subject matter that has already been dealt with so many times before and that I’m not convinced Brice really brings anything more to it that hasn’t been brought before. And may even bring a little less.
However, I don’t think the moral attitudes is actually the main problem here. If the filmmaker wants to cocktease with being sexually liberated and then come solidly down on the side of the safe, moralistic bourgeoisie, that’s his prerogative (Cecile B. DeMille made a fortune off of it).
No, I think that the real problem is that once Kurt invites the young couple over, nothing really seems to be driving the story. In Score, you knew what everyone was after and what was at stake and everything that everyone did was for the purpose of either achieving their goal or thwarting it. And it actually generated a nice little bit of suspense until its figurative and metaphorical climax.
But here, the story sort of staggers along with no real energy or forward momentum because the characters of Kurt and Charlotte don’t really seem to be fully invested in achieving anything.
Alex and Emily make more sense as they stumble around trying to figure out what the hell is going on and whether they are responding the way they should—as Alex more or less says at one time: this is L.A., maybe this is typical for a pizza party. But Kurt and Charlotte’s motivations are so vague as to be an albatross around the story’s neck.
And when the big reveal is revealed, well, again, as I said, it’s not really that big a surprise. But even with that, it never really seems to match what was going on before. There’s one scene where Charlotte and Emily go out for liquor and make a detour, but I have no idea how what happens in this scene informs anything that is going on in the story and as far as I’m concerned, its inclusion is not satisfactorily explained away by the ending.
So we basically have a story that is moving toward an ending that never seems to really be moving toward an ending and when it does reach the ending, the ending doesn’t really seem to satisfactorily match up with the ending the story seemed to be moving toward.
I also think there are some other issues. The film in many ways feels mumblecore like (and Mark Duplass is one of the producers) along with one of the main faults I personally have with that movement. Mumblecore films are often filled with characters that the filmmakers think are interesting, but are generally, well…not. In fact, they are often rather, well…very uninteresting.
And the characters here are about the same. There’s nothing that special about them and though basically realistic enough within the context of the film, don’t feel that vibrant. I’m just not sure why I’m following their story.
In the end, I think there are a couple of scenes in the film that may serve as a metaphor for my attitude toward the movie, that it’s a film that says it’s going to go there, and then doesn’t. The first is when Alex is paranoid about going skinny dipping because he says he has an abnormally small penis, and when he finally goes full Monty, gasp…he has an average size appendage.
But perhaps more pertinently, Kurt, as one of the many fingers he has in many pots, is a painter. His artwork looks somewhat like abstract flowers painted very colorfully.
When Kurt shows the paintings to Alex, Alex immediate asks, are they anusses (or ani, to get the plural correct). Kurt says they are and that most people don’t see it and that Alex is very perceptive. This happens a second time when Emily sees them and immediately recognizes them as posterior openings and again, she is congratulated on being very perceptive.
The problem is that the paintings don’t really look like ani, at least not remotely in the way that Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings resemble vaginas. And, people, I’ve seen a ton of ani in my lifetime and I’m sorry, these are not buttholes. So I just didn’t buy these characters catching on to what they were.
So if you are able to see the ani in the paintings, maybe the movie will work for you.
As for me, I’m willing to admit that maybe I’m just not perceptive enough to tell an ass from a hole in the ground.
Eden is about Paul, a DJ who tries to make a go of it in the French version of the Chicago Garage movement in France from the 1990’s to the more or less present day. He reaches a certain height, but never really makes a go of it, and when tastes change, as they have a wont to do, and he can’t change with it, all of his professional and personal issues come down hard on him and forces him to make a decision about his life.
The film is written by director Mia Hansen-Løve and her brother Sven Hansen-Løve and is loosely based on Sven’s life.
The Hansen-Løves show their central character a lot of empathy and there’s always a good sense of place and time.
But overall, I’m afraid that the movie never really grabbed me. I never had much of an emotional connection to the story or the characters.
I think there are several reasons for this. The main one has to do with the subject matter and the way it is dramatized. The music backdrop is that of Garage, and if you are a big fan of the style, then this movie may be of more interest to you.
But if you’re not (and I’m neither a fan nor not a fan, I’m fairly indifferent to its existence), then you may have a harder time finding yourself excited by Paul’s choice of lifestyle.
In the movie, Garage is described by Paul as something between Disco and House.
And it more or less sounds like it. It’s not as campy or energetic as Disco and not as in your face as House. It’s kind of, well, just there, a bit sluggish, a little dull, neither hot nor cold, more lukewarm.
So the movie is, in many ways, about a music movement that really isn’t that exciting in the first place (at least based on the music choices used here—it is possible that the songs included were not the best examples for whatever reason, but are just the best the filmmakers could get).
In addition, the characters are generally somewhat bland and acted rather flatly by the actors. Paul is played by Felix de Givry and he’s a relative newcomer to film (it’s his second role after a part in Something in the Air). He’s very good looking, but he just doesn’t have that much of a screen presence and can’t seem to do much with the character.
The screenplay and story just sort of meander along. And except for some opening scenes where the characters attend raves in a submarine and an out of the way mansion, there’s rarely that much energy on screen.
But perhaps what is really missing is why Paul wants to be a DJ, and not just a DJ, but a DJ of garage music. I never quite knew what drew him to it and what he got out of it. If I could tell or feel or understand why he needed to be a part of this music movement, maybe the rest of the movie would have fallen into place.
And without an understanding (emotional or intellectually, it doesn’t matter, just give me something), then I found it a little hard to care what happens to him overall.
With Greta Gerwig as an American in Paris who has a fling with Paul, and Brady Corbet as her New York boyfriend. Even Gerwig’s usual charm doesn’t quite come through and her character also falls a bit flat.