During this dark comedy your reaction will veer from amusement to awkwardness and then back. Though it is an uneven ride it is one worth taking. Bringing you through this up and down journey is director/writer Patrick Brice (Creep) and his four principle actors – Adam Scott (from television’s Parks & Recreation), Taylor Schilling (from television’s Orange is the New Black), Jason Schwartzman (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr. Fox), and Judith Godrèche (The Man in the Iron Mask, Stoker). They all, each and every one, do a fine job, but that does not make their characters or what happens very believable. But that is neither here nor there when it comes to films.
Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) have just moved to Los Angeles from Seattle with their young son, RJ. Emily works while Alex is a stay at home dad. As such, Alex is worried about meeting people and making friends. His worries come to a halt when they go to the park for a kid’s birthday party and he and Emily meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and his son Max. They hit it off with the friendly Kurt, who then invites them to dinner at his place that evening.
That evening they arrive at Kurt’s huge house and meet Kurt’s wife Charlotte (Judith Godrèche). Though Kurt and Charlotte are rather eccentric Alex and Emily have a good time. The two couples get to know each other as their sons sleep in Max’s room. Once the two sons are asleep weird things begin to happen between the adults.
Because it is not your average bear and not like other films for a while anyway it is a lot of fun. Odd, quirky, funny, and interesting. A different kind of look at marriage, sex and relationships in general. Then once the awful prosthetics come out and paintings of butt holes appear in Kurt’s workshop the ship starts springing plenty of leaks. You can see what Brice was trying to accomplish but at times he is clumsy and heavy-handed and the film suffers as a result.
Though he is trying his hardest and has proven himself capable of delivering odd characters onscreen throughout his career, Jonathan Schwartzman is having another kick at the quirky character can. Unfortunately this can is rather empty. The behaviours of his character end up being odd and rather unlikeable. Then his beautiful and likeable wife is not given enough screen time. It is all rather frustrating. The actor who comes off best is Taylor Schilling, who once again proves that her comedic timing is second to none. Though once again this female character is not fully fleshed out.
Something the film does do well is present a positive picture of what it means to be a man in today’s world. It doesn’t bemoan a married man’s lot, rather the male tale is presented with plenty of panache and intelligent insights.
Brice also does a good job at presenting a look at marriage, long term relationships and parenthood in a non-traditional way. There are some surprises to be discovered. Several unexpected moments happen along the way. Many of the resulting observations are truly authentic feeling.
Besides the lack of some character development that ends up being frustrating another element of the film that is less than satisfactory is the ending. Just as things look like they are turning around for the better again the film ends. I left this dinner party feeling slightly empty stomached.