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Phallo Eccentrics

August Images

Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, and Jason Schwartzman | Photo Courtesy of August Images

Jason Schwartzman’s 5 o’clock shadow and Groucho eyebrows makes him a perfectly comical bisexual lothario in The Overnight. As Kurt, a shady artist/entrepreneur, he only lacks a porn star moustache. But Kurt already has a porn star’s dirty mind: he leads young married parents Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling), his house guests and after-dinner partiers, to partake of his bong and dong.

The Overnight satirizes how Millennials, inheritors of the sexual revolution, can be easily seduced. It makes a joke of hipster etiquette — a joke on themselves —when the concept of fluid sexuality is commonly accepted seemingly “overnight,” yet not commonly understood. Alex and Emily don’t really know who they are. They never question their sexuality — or fidelity — until the leering Kurt flashes his impressive penis (Schwartzman wearing a well-publicized prosthetic).

Lo and behold, the straight couple is moved beyond their insecurities and outside their safety zone. “Let me offer you a stiff one” Kurt smirks when mixing — what else? — cocktails. It takes Kurt’s wife, Charlotte (Judith Godreche), who is French and so presumably more open-minded, to broach the topic and gather them all onto the same bed as if convening a carnal cult.

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The rallying around Kurt’s freak-flagpole generates The Overnight’s gay content. Writer-director Patrick Brice conceives sexuality as a male prerogative — centering on Alex’s embarrassment over his own small endowment. This could be comic shtick of the Louis C.K. kind, but it also suggests homosexual fixation — and panic. Kurt first seduces Alex through a series of Georgia O’Keefe-style anal/flower portraits that he painted based on enlargements of private porn photos. (“The Internet is a vast sea of depravity.”) These raise the prospect of submission and penetration. When Charlotte takes Emily along on a sudden massage parlor jaunt, it is less about women’s same-sex enticement than a journey toward male manipulation and female servitude. These sex-farceurs are all phallocentric.

By focusing generational sex mores on men’s obsessions and genital fetish, The Overnight repeats male cultural privilege. (Schwartzman and Scott’s acting styles resemble the stand-up comic’s tendency to observe sexual behavior with adolescent sarcasm.) French philosopher Jacques Derrida coined a great phrase for this habit of talking about sex primarily through men’s privilege — the academic term “phallologocentrism.”

That’s a mouthful as gay poet D.A. Powell (Cocktails) might say and the problem with The Overnight is Brice’s tendency to talk all around the phallus like a smarmy frat boy but noticeably without a gay artist’s honesty.

The Overnight teases gay sexuality — and the possibility of orgy as in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969). But Brice is no Paul Mazursky-level counterculture moralist, he displays the same smuttiness as in the ludicrous, unsophisticated M2M indie film Humpday and with equal artistic cowardice. When Emily takes a long, hard look at Kurt’s wood, the camera hides behind her shoulder — too timid to indulge Judd Apatow’s crude promise to feature a penis in each of his movies yet not clever enough to let Schwartzman arch his randy brows at the right moment or even utter a Groucho-worthy wisecrack. But that would require the opposite of insecurity.

The Overnight is in theaters in NY and LA June 19. Watch the trailer below:

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