Mediocre: The Overnight

The Overnight (2015)

Written and directed by Patrick Brice
Produced by Naomi Scott, Maya Ferrara, Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, Adam Scott
Starring Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, Judith Godrèche, R.J. Hermes, Max Moritt

Synopsis

A budding friendship between their sons (Hermes, Moritt) introduces a married pair (Scott, Schilling) anxiously resettled in Los Angeles to another (Schwartzman, Godrèche) warm, wealthy and weird who invite the transplants to their home. After their kids are abed, the commonplace couple discover just how bizarrely talented, generous and uninhibited their hosts are, and they’re paradoxically pushed to party beyond their zones of comfort, and into new ones.

Script

Penned from the perspective of Scott’s and Schilling’s spouses, Brice’s story is among the most benignly bawdy you’re likely to see, sweet in intention if too Rabelaisian for some viewers. For everyone else, his raveling, disrobing revelations underscored by gamey tiffs and coquetry are flurryingly fun.

Direction

As evidenced in Creep and Creep 2, Brice skillfully supervises his productions on tight budgets and schedules, helming this one over the course of 12 days (and nights), largely at Adam Carolla’s ritzy house. His workmanship is respectably transparent in service to his cast.

Cinematography

Photic balance and colorful splashes amid otherwise muted tones distinguish John Guleserian’s camerawork.

Editing

Christopher Donlon times alternations of shots with conversational flow, if twice or thrice too often.

Histrionics

Schwartzman’s eccentric entrepreneur (who would’ve been a fit role for either of the co-producing Duplass brothers) is easy to overplay, but his effervescence is kept in confident check. As protean as any thalian thespian working, Scott interprets his insecure husband as an interchangeably restless and relaxed complement to Schilling’s adoring wife, who betrays little lusts and ruffles with droll niceties. Now an old hand as an inveterate flirt, Godrèche tempers her sensuality with a warmth shared by her co-stars.

Score

As in other projects by the Duplasses, Julian Wass has a perkily synthesized tune for nearly every tone.

Highlights

Brice’s highlights are surprises that would be undone by explication, one of which is foretokened by an acrylically painted motif and the movie’s theatrical poster.

Flaws

Scott and Schilling seem stiltedly self-conscious in their second scene together.

Conclusion

If most bagatelles were written and acted this well, many of us would never leave our couches.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.

Mediocre: Creep 2

Creep 2 (2017)

Directed by Patrick Brice
Written by Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Produced by Carolyn Craddock, Jason Blum, Josh Braun, Christopher Donlon, Mark Duplass, Mel Eslyn
Starring Mark Duplass, Desiree Akhavan

Synopsis

Another day, another night, another hire, another murder….right? Her serial exposing the lonely men behind craigslist personals is an unmitigated flop on YouTube, so a frustrated, exploitative videographer (Akhavan) leaps at the opportunity to interview an oddball (Duplass) mired in a midlife crisis, who professes to be a serial killer. He’s thus far her only riveting subject; unlike his anterior victims, she’s unflinching and provocative. Who’s luring who?

Script

The first video was a microbudgeted marvel: cunningly contrived, well-acted, disquieting and hilarious with disregard to any distinction between horror and comedy, and possibly the only good movie that Blumhouse has ever produced. Brice and Duplass are deservedly praised for developing this sequel from a variant perspective that generates a few instances of silent and suggested suspense, and almost as many laughs, but this time the scares are stingy. Choice characterizations can’t sustain a script that loses momentum during the movie’s final fifteen minutes.

Direction

As before, all shots are either stationary or hand-held by the spontaneous stars, to whom Brice’s direction is largely overshadowed and subordinated.

Cinematography

Akhavan and Brice keep glare or shade from spoiling any shots.

Editing

Concatenating and condensing cuts are as adroitly effectuated by Christopher Donlon here as in the preceding pic.

Histrionics

Tensions and a commoving congeniality between its headliners form the nucleus of this production, interplayed by Duplass and Akhavan in outstanding, unnerving verisimilitude. Ever a comedic actor, Duplass inhabits his self-obsessed, homicidal lunatic with the ebullient enticement, dread despondence and manic outbursts that made his character unforgettable. Not merely a foil behind the camera, Akhavan renders her documentarian manqué’s desperation, ambition, doubt and fear just as believably, and with teeth — this could just as well be titled Creeps.

Score

Spanning not five minutes, two percussive, synthesized tracks by Julian Wass are as listenable as anything he’s recorded for the Duplass brothers’ other projects.

Highlights

Nearly half of the runtime consists of Duplass’s spoken exposition; this wouldn’t work, but his locution of these monologues mesmerize, as does the contrast of his wolfish insinuations and effusive ingratiation. Akhavan counters him with a tough skepticism that’s never inordinately bitchy or self-conscious.

Flaws

First blood spilt during an otherwise fun prologue is observably digital. After an hour of discussion and misdirection, a protracted, uninspired anticlimax at Donlon’s only bad splice fordoes the story, and isn’t redeemed by a clever end.

Conclusion

Nobody reasonably expected this to match its predecessor (which loses much of its power after it’s first seen), but Brice and Duplass couldn’t land that last punch, or replicate the affright that made it great. As a result, this is that most disappointing of mediocrities that falls short of the considerable talent invested. Remakes, ripoffs and unimaginative franchises for bottom-feeders are Blumhouse’s lifeblood, but we expect more from these two. Feel free to blame Jason Blum.