“If you’re uncomfortable, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”
A couple newly moved to LA at a dinner party with gregarious new friends is a familiar lens through which to explore the awkwardness of learning and engaging with new people outside of our comfort zone. Produced by the Duplass brothers, The Overnight bears tonal similarities to Cyrus and is similarly somewhat missold as a comedy. The uneasy atmosphere is more successful maintained here over the course of a single evening rather than a protracted relationship, though the film oversteps on a few occasions, breaking the tension with the unnecessarily “outrageous”, like a scene with risible prosthetic genitalia. Its chief strength is Jason Schwartzman’s shifting energy between eccentric generosity and manipulative coercion, keeping the audience — as much as his guests — guessing as to his motives.
“There’s nothing wrong with my life. I should be happy. But there’s this sadness… and I don’t know where it comes from.”
For many years I have described my favourite genre as the “connection genre”, a subset of which is “reconnection”. Blue Jay is a gentle black-and-white indie drama in which childhood sweethearts run into each other by chance twenty years later and spend some time reconnecting. The performances are critical with just two actors: Mark Duplass (who also wrote the script) and Sarah Paulson (who is exceptional). Blue Jay captures the casual intimacy and understanding between former lovers who knew each other so well, in addition to the ease — and underlying danger — of falling back into those patterns through nostalgia. Although the film feels largely romantic in nature, heartbreak is an ever-present threat. The believable, endearing chemistry between the leads is aided by improvisation around a loosely outlined script, allowing the actors to react naturalistically to one another. My only real criticism is a revelation late in the film which feels unnecessary and somewhat undermines the universality of much of what came before.
“I don’t think of myself as a homosexual. I really don’t think of myself as anything.”
Cameron Post is the kind of emotional but understated role that I have been hoping for Chloë Grace Moretz to take. That she signed on to this low budget but beautifully crafted passion project makes clear how keen she was too. Gay conversion therapy remains a dirty secret of Christianity, with Western societies tacitly condoning this form of emotional abuse. This film approaches it solely from perspective of those subjected to treatment; it can be sympathetic to other characters but does not seek to explore their reasoning. Whilst a protagonist without agency is often problematic, in Cameron’s case it makes sense because that is fundamental to those experiencing this treatment. Through Moretz’s nuanced performance we see the transition from incredulity at what she hears, to wanting the process to help her, to realising she has far more understanding and agency than she had allowed herself to believe. Whilst a marketing push is likely to target a queer audience, this deserves mainstream recognition.