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The Overnight

There’s been quite a lot of attention lately to the seemingly plausible occurrence that you could lose everything you’ve accrued for yourself in life over one casually made remark — you always have to be watchful. When we hear this complaint being made it’s usually people pointing fingers at a politically correct culture, and we’d be correct to assume that what the people complaining want foremost is actually a chance to flip things around so that the politically correct — i.e., progressives — are the ones under pressure. We’d also be correct to note that easily as fair a way of assessing our times is actually more of it as eliminating our ability to shame groups of people, and that it is really this, our successful activism against prejudice and stigmatization, that is a key source of many people’s anxiety: “you” feel bound up, it’s because we’ve taken away the arenas you were used to being able to piss into, so deal! But we must still note that there’s a sense that we’ve also made all of society as if it’s being “taught to the test” … that there is a specific sort of human being that we’re all supposed to be, and that we’re all expected to match each and every one of the expectations in order to qualify as relevant just the same way every student hoping to get into a decent college has to. Good people still do move on, but aberrancy, true oddness — doing something different that isn’t immediately appreciated as bold and new and A+-worthy but perhaps rather as wrong and badly astray — has no time to recover: you’re judged this way once and you’ll drop a few classes in people’s estimation, never to recover into societal relevancy, even if you were being faithful to instinct in a way that would eventually lead to generously new product. The point is, you are someone whose activation is unhinged from applause, and its tough to “like” someone and keep them in the public headlines when, however much they shine along today they can’t be counted on to not burrow up into some hole tomorrow that they’re too adrift to know has been designated for public obliteration — probably because it embarrasses us for its revealing something true about us. The point is, we’re going at our societal growth nervously, and keeping everyone’s reflecting one another "perfect" pose seems to make us feel that it can’t all be sundered from us. We forfeit ourselves a lot of originality, and shortchange some people the kind of feedback and allowance that could make them great, because moving as we are out into the wilds of a new social landscape, it just feels safer to be doing so in some glistening rocket ship that looks good all around rather than as some muddle of strengths but also unaccounted for weak spots, that might however speed like the ’Falcon. “American” aberrant genius goes by-by, when “Russian” constancy makes us feel braced, and more calms our nerves.

For me, this film begins to portray itself as a brave attempt to maybe offer a kind of safe zone for a couple that isn’t ever going to receive it. Specifically, Alex, who has the same-sized infinitesimal penis as an adult that barely looked promising when he was a child, hasn’t had anyone in his family or school circles who hasn’t implicitly communicated that his possession of it isn’t something best kept hid from the world — his parents told him it would surely grow when he hit puberty, rather than prepared him to consider just how much something one can do nothing about tells you about a person; his school mates were a chorus of endless taunting, just waiting to erupt if they ever learned his secret. And evolved society, however much it’s making some groups feel less subject to public shaming, still seems vested to still want to keep some things that resound too much of insecurities they share kept out of view, and further vested in subscribing a portion of our populace to some avenue of bland perfection — near replaceable, one for the other, but each one significantly ripped — fit-bit people, as if they had to be, like 1940s actors, prepared to head out instantly to serve as a wall of war muscle, hasn’t really gotten its act together sufficiently to spread the kind of cover all around that it is commendably offering some: it's got body issues too. The feminist, "evolved" take on the portrayal of Black Widow in the last Avengers film was that we shouldn't have had to wallow in her owning up to being sterilized, her owning it, but rather just be excited by her simply kicking ass: even a hero we really want to root for risks being forced into unfriendly categorization, disturbing our preferred sense of the degree of our unconditional loyalty to her, if her identity becomes partly based on something out of our own reminders we want to wrench ourselves away from rather than watch, and so what chance infant-dick Alex for a group hug? — would you ever count yourself House Greyjoy? But Kurt, the man who introduces himself to Alex and his wife and hopes to befriend them, represents someone who might just be able to provide a conceivable enclave where Alex might let his guard down and have his difficulties addressed ... be rehabilitated, for there are pockets of space out there in the world that we can imagine as being adrift from what all else is concerning people in the world, and Kurt is majestically in possession of one of them. 

Kurt's got one of those grand estates in LA that is in absolute defiance of "decent" restraint and has never had to care. He's linked to that part of our conception of LA as it as absurdly afloat in its own dreaming ways, but that has as little to be concerned of what you might have to think about it as would the French of a bland American who has strayed into Paris, hoping to hoist attitude. You go at him, you're going at Hollywood, California, the self-made man and the really potent money-maker, and even democracy — the country itself! — and so goes into the dumpster all your presumptions to situate him for ready judgment and targeting. And when he apparently inadvertently stages a scene where Alex's body issues would come to the fore, but does so in a way informed with therapeutic acuity — he doesn't insist that Alex join him in the pool "au natural” but rather is willing to let it go, but later also doesn't shrink from ultimately confronting Alex about his hesitancy — there's a sense of real therapeutic gain for Alex in his deciding to talk about how ashamed he has for long been made to feel. 

Unfortunately, the film cuts itself off there as being some kind of "Midnight in Paris" adventure where someone who has always felt all out of sorts and despaired of ever finding someone who could provide feedback he could trust, finally finds "it," and becomes more sort of a thriller where you wonder whether in the end the disoriented, guileless couple will realize that in agreeing to an overnight they've consented to being flies caught in the spider's web. We are motioned to consider Alex's new actually liking his dick as actually a plot device that functions to get a trepidatious, cautious couple — meant now to be a proxy for any one of us — further into being willing to venture into unaccounted territory, and as something that begins to loosen a tight husband-and-wife bond — Alex's wife Emily was never successful in abating her husband's dis-ease but this forming homosocial bond with Kurt was — so that the possibility that reticence won't actually conquer the evening and that they might actually “swing," and perhaps, effectively, discombobulate, is kept alive.

Further, we are made to feel that it really isn't Alex's truly brave reveal that is something to succour through proxy, but rather his finally at the end stopping his being passive, forever moved along and shaped by his host for his own purposes, and taking command. He barks at Kurt and orders him into a position where his wife would ostensibly succumb to him in sex, and it reads as of Alice finally shattering the beleaguering Wonderland that has refused her any chance here-to to gain her bearing. In response to this, his hosts "shrink": we are encouraged to see them as more bereft than Alex and Emily, vastly more troubled, for while Alex's especially small penis may mean he and his wife are forever subscribed to humiliating, less-than-perfect sexual experiences, the fact that as a married couple with a child they're still having sex puts them way ahead of Kurt and his wife Charlotte, who have essentially been trying to function as a neutered, sexless "friendship" relationship for over ten years, and its not cutting it. Alex and his wife are in need of friends, Kurt and his are profoundly desperate — the swinging we see unfold briefly at the end, reads almost as Alex and Emily's charity. 

Both both couples inadvertently meet, perhaps a month’s hence, and Kurt and Charlotte are the ones that have to beg as to why the clear distancing — they're the ones who have to behave as if the evening tested them and one couple made it through okayish while the other came out worn. The message we take away from the film is that it can feel good to lend yourself into some grand adventure where in a densely-packed, short period of time you'll have to encounter a lot of the strangeness you might normally have to accustom yourself with over a long while — undergo a risky overnight — because you'll feel like you've got your full bearings instantly. It's the kind of message that appeals to people who don't want to know that letting down your guard only to become instantly more lordish, is just bravado — non-growth.  Anxieties are momentarily quit, and you feel temporarily inflated and proven —that's all. 

If the film had not explored an overnight but a swinging collection of couples in an adventure of such prolonged, ongoing self-discovery that it reminded one of the languid 1970s rather than of our own urgent need to feel everywhere well patched up, we'd have seen an existence so untethered from the day-to-day self-adaptations we are all making with one another through our social networks that when they "emerged," it's difficult to convince ourselves they wouldn't just come out, permanent cast-offs — people who are simply non constituent of the societal narrative we're all making for ourselves, and thus, some species of human ostensible fair attendance to reality requires we pass by unseen. But that remains the movie I wish I saw, from start to finish, because it’s just right that we stop, listen, and discover, and encourage good people their chance to blossom.  


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