Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
There is chance you may make a face very similar to the one above while watching Patrick Brice’s THE OVERNIGHT. However, the chances of being a little weird and different can pay off, and this is very much the case here with Brice’s peculiar and fascinating feature.
THE OVERNIGHT generated a lot of talk at this year’s Sundance and South by Southwest film festivals for its funny yet perceptive take on relationships and sex. In the film, Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling play Alex and Emily, a couple new to Los Angeles. We see Alex, Emily and their young son visit a local park, where they meet a “cool dad” named Kurt (Jason Schwartzman). Kurt invites them over for a little “welcome to the neighborhood” dinner with his wife (Judith Godrèche). From there, things steadily but unquestionably get weird, and it’s absolutely great.
Fresh Fiction recently had the opportunity to sit down with Brice to speak about his new film, its crazy climax (spoiler-free, of course), bringing on his impressive cast, and the movies that taught us about sex. You can see our video interview with him below, along with our transcribed interview with him from earlier this year.
A Squeaky-Chaired Interview with Patrick Brice:
Well, I saw the film at SXSW and really liked it quite a bit. I’m glad that you took my tweet about the film as a compliment, you know, for feeling weird for liking the movie.
Patrick Brice: “[Laughs] Yeah!”
Have you ever had an experience where you watched a film and were a little unsure of how you felt about it after, but as the day went on and you thought about it a little more, you realized just how great it was? That was my experience with this film.
Brice: “Oh, sure! Yeah. When something sticks with you? There’s your immediate reaction and then there’s your reaction after it has settled a little bit, right?”
Brice: “Well [Laughs], I’m glad that happened for you.”
[Laughs] Oh, yeah, man. I really enjoyed myself. I was laughing, I felt uncomfortable at times– and I commend you for that. That climax, though– it really makes you wonder.
Brice: “Yeah, that was a huge consideration for me the whole movie. When writing it, I knew that I wanted to end with this crazy climax, so a lot of this was reverse engineering, working backwards, and finding a justification for what happens. As a viewer, you don’t want people to get to the part where you would say, ‘I would just leave. I would leave that house.’ So it was a matter of threading that needle and making sure they were going to stay in the house in a believable way.”
To me, everything felt believable. It was very natural. So when you write, do you typically write your films with end points in mind, or do you coast along for the ride like the rest of us?
Brice: “Yeah! Well, with this movie, in particular, that was the approach. I knew that I wanted the film to take place in 24 hours. I knew that I wanted the audience to experience and discover what was going on in real-time, just like the characters.
The way I write is I will usually outline it– sometimes a large, single-spaced document. It could be gibberish if you looked at it: and then this happens, and then this happens, and so on. With this movie, it was very easy to write that way: now they’re down stairs, now they’re in the swimming pool– another breadcrumb of craziness is being dropped on them and they have to react to it.
I did take a lot of what I learned from making CREEP and applied it to this, thinking about narrative tension. I always like it when a comedy does that– when you’re watching a comedy, and not only are you hopefully laughing at the gags and jokes, but hopefully you’re also invested in the plot as well.”
So it wasn’t too bad to balance it tonally?
Brice: “Yeah. Well, it’s one of these things where, you know, both CREEP and this movie are movies where these characters are trying to figure each other out. Hopefully part of the joy of the movie is this slow realization of– first of all, these people are crazy and how crazy is it going to get? THE OVERNIGHT includes a situation that could potentially go on the darker side of things. But, it is this movie that takes place all at night time.”
How were you able to pull together this impressive cast? Did you show them CREEP, share the script with them and they came on board? What sparked the trust?
Brice: “Yeah. Mark [Duplass] and I developed the initial idea for the movie together. When we went out looking for actors, we went out together as producer and writer. The first person to come on board was Judith Godrèche. She wanted to work with Mark on something. And she’s really well-known in France, working as actress in comedies for French markets. But, she’s been in American movies; she was in THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK and STOKER. But, she read the script, loved it and came on board. I just so happened to have written a part for a sexy French mom, so it was a nice little kismet, you know? Judith is that, while also so smart and has great instincts.
We were also looking for a day-to-day producer on the movie. Mark was the godfather of the project, but he also had so many projects going on, so we needed a hands-on producer. We knew that Adam Scott’s wife, Naomi Scott, had been wanting to get into features. Her and Adam produce this television show together called THE GREATEST EVENT IN TELEVISION HISTORY. Have you seen it?”
I haven’t. I will have to check it out, but there’s just so much damn great television on at the moment.
Brice: “I know! So much good stuff out there. But it’s on Adult Swim, and pretty funny, esoteric and weird. The fact that they were a part of a show like that was a great indicator for me that they would be down for a movie that was a little different. So we went to Adam and Naomi as a team– Adam to play Alex and Naomi to produce. Luckily, they were into it and immediately jumped on board.
And then we found Taylor [Schilling] and then finally it was Jason Schwartzman. We were looking at a few different guys, but Jason kind of came through at the last minute and blew us all away.
There were no rehearsals for this. It was just sending them the script, meeting with them and talking with them about the vibe and approach we wanted to take with it.”
Now, I know you developed this when you were in post-production for CREEP, but what was the first idea that kind of kicked this off? Where did it stem from?
Brice: “Basically it was Mark coming to me and saying if you want to write a movie that can sort of exist within my small business model – similar to what he did with YOUR SISTER’S SISTER or THE ONE I LOVE – that he would produce it. So the plot kind of came from the conversations I had with Mark, and I think it started with the idea of the climax.
Most movies within the indiesphere that involve sex don’t really go all the way. I’m not talking about what happens in my film, but the emotional ramifications of that in a real way— people in relationships going through what they’re going through and being able to articulate it. I didn’t want to make fun of these people. I am hoping that the audience will be on board with these people, and that there was sort of an error of inclusiveness going on, where you could enjoy the more ridiculous stuff with characters in the movie.
The idea was that the humor would come out of the characters opposed to straight up jokes. One of the things that I noticed when I watched the film with an audience, that was both lovely and unexpected, was people, of course, laughing at the gags, but this low rumble of giggling going, and a lot of that was from realizing who these characters are, especially Jason’s character. So just the slow discovery of the characters and the humor coming from that.”
And that’s exactly what happened during our screening: we laughed at the jokes and also laughed at the characters just being stuck in this situation and discovering what they were all about. But anyways, I talked to Mark last year when he came through Dallas for THE ONE I LOVE, and after watching your film, I couldn’t help but compare the two films, in that they both deal with couples going through new experiences. This is a question that I asked to Mark but I also want to get your take on it, but what in your opinion makes love last through its ups and downs?
Brice: “It’s funny, because you’re talking to someone who has been in the same relationship for 10 years, and we’ve been married for three years. One of the big things, besides the day-to-day bullshit – someone taking too long in the bathroom or farting in front of each other – is acknowledging that you’re both growing. You are a different person at various stages in your life, in terms of what you’re dealing with at your job and your relationships. So I would say acknowledging the evolutionary process.
I met my wife when we we’re both kids, essentially. She was 19-years-old and I was 22. I was a moron then. I did have the foresight to pick her up, but other than that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing with my life at the time, or at least I thought I did, but I didn’t know what it meant, in terms of the application of things.
To now be 31 and my wife 29, and to still be in love and more in love and also be completely different people– I think that’s a big part of it. It’s the same when you have friends for a long time. I have a close group of friends that I’ve been friends with since I was 11 and 12. You still see that person and consider that person at that same age, when you really formed that friendship closely. Whenever you hear something that’s a little different from what your friend would say when they were at that young age, it’s a little weird. I think that’s the main thing for me: accepting and acknowledging the inevitable aspects of it. Hopefully you grow together, but in some cases you grow apart.
With the THE ONE I LOVE, part of what is cool about that movie is there’s an ambiguity at the end as to whether these two people should even be together, you know? And then going back to THE OVERNIGHT, I like the idea of– because we only had 24 hours in this movie, a character’s emotional arc can only go so high in that time frame. So I really wanted this movie to be kind of like a little flash in a pan, just a moment in these people’s lives. Adam Scott’s character has this experience where he overcomes this sense of insecurity based on this guy helping him out in this moment, and hopefully that will then effect his relationship with his wife in a positive way.
[Laughs] It’s funny because it’s super middle-class wish-fulfillment, but it’s like, you know? I like the idea of just showing a moment in a person’s life where they learn something, when someone gave them something. Have you seen CRYSTAL FAIRY & THE MAGICAL CACTUS?”
Is that the one with Michael Cera?
Brice: “Yeah. Have you seen that?”
I have not.
Brice: “It’s really great. It’s on Netflix. I heard the director talking about that movie and he said he wanted to show a moment in a character’s life where they learned empathy. And the movie is kind of about this dude who is completely selfish and kind of a d-ck. He would normally be the fourth or fifth lead in any other movie but is given the lead role in this movie. It’s kind of this lovely thing. I think as a filmmaker, to go for something so subtle is the goal of a movie. So I saw this as an opportunity to focus on a moment in time in these people’s lives.
The number one goal for me was to obviously make something entertaining. I feel like I can fulfill all my own filmmaking fetishes and goals while still trying to be entertaining at the same time; that’s really something that I see going hand-in-hand, and one of the reasons why I watch movies. Like we were just talking about earlier, there’s so much content out there right now. I really want the stuff I make to be worth people’s time, because there’s just so much out there.”
Well, it definitely worth of my time. To bring up your film CREEP, my day job is working for a video production business and I film weddings and freelance stuff. I’ve thought of ideas very similar to CREEP, but then I saw it at SXSW last year and I was like, “Well, sh-t. That’s awesome!”
Brice: “Yeah! [Laughs]”
And I like to think that I am a romantic guy, so I really related to what you were saying earlier about your wife. I met my wife when I was 19 almost 20 and she was 18, so I completely relate to what you were saying about growing together, being different people but on the same wavelength. And when I talked to Mark last year, he brought up something very similar to what you were talking about. He said you can only expect that your significant other will do about 75% of the things you ask of them, and you have to be forgiving when they don’t. I think you both hit the nail right on the head.
Brice: “Yeah! I think that’s really smart, and it’s also really hard to ask and to give; you’re always reminding yourself of it.”
Brice: “But that’s so funny what you said earlier about your work. You’re like the ideal audience for CREEP [Laughs]. We made that movie for you.”
[Laughs] Yeah. I like going into movies blind, which is why I love going to film festivals, because most of the time there is not a whole lot of information on films and what they are about. With CREEP, I went in based off of Mark Duplass being in it, and loved it. Same with THE OVERNIGHT, I knew you did it, and that was good enough for me to see it. Both of your films are so different from each other yet I’ve never seen anything like either one. They push the boundaries and are entertaining. So, good job, man.
Brice: “Thanks, man! I appreciate that. When I went off to write THE OVERNIGHT and then brought the script back to Mark, he was a little surprised at how much of a comedy it was. I think he was expecting it to be a little more dramatic or darker, but I’ve always wanted to make a comedy. So I saw this film as my opportunity to do that. So I’m excited that it’s out there, getting released in June and people are connecting with it. I appreciate that, man. Thank you so much for coming out to see it, too.”
Oh, no problem. It was on my list of films to see, and it ended up being in my top two of the festival.
Brice: “Oh, fantastic. Very cool!”
THE OVERNIGHT opened on June 19, and expanded this past weekend in Dallas.