There’s a certain irony to Overnight. It’s a film which played in competition at the Sundance Film Festival about the making of a film which, essentially, went straight to DVD. But then its trailer does tout itself as a “Hollywood parable”, the story of Troy Duffy, a man who was invited into the industry with open arms, but in his own way managed to fuck it all up. His screenplay for The Boondock Saints was snapped up by Miramax for $300,000; his band, the Brood, were going to be signed to Madonna’s Maverick label. Yet he threw it all away and went back to the day job he had before the whole sorry affair started, as a bouncer and bartender.
We’ve been here before courtesy of Peter Biskind’s Down ‘n’ Dirty Pictures. In-between its ill-placed and often baffling character assassination on Robert Redford, that book found room to offer a cautionary tale about dealing with Miramax and Harvey Weinstein in particular, a man whose presence haunts Overnight even if we rarely see his face or hear his voice. Furthermore, The Boondock Saints, when it did finally get made, offered only minor pleasures (primarily owing to Willem Dafoe’s oddball turn) and amounted to moderate home video hit within a certain demographic. (And I suspect, in the UK at least, that this was the result of its low retail price more than anything else.) So why should we be interested in Overnight? The answer to that is remarkably simple.
More than a standard DVD add-on, and certainly more than a piece of EPK fluff, Overnight is perhaps best compared to American Movie, the 1999 documentary about fledgling film director Mark Borchadt. Just as in this piece we didn’t require any interest in Northwestern (the no-budget feature debut Borchadt was struggling to make), the horror genre in general or even filmmaking per se in order to find it a fascinating experience, so too Overnight engages because of its central figure. Indeed, Borchadt and Duffy actually survive the comparison: both share family tensions; both are commonly shown drinking to excess; and both are exceptionally delusional. Yet whilst American Movie’s subject could prove himself to be an amiable presence, Duffy simply shows himself up as a complete asshole.
What’s especially interesting in this respect is the fact that he stays at this level throughout. The narrative trajectory is such that we begin with Duffy’s signing, media coverage and general ass-licking, and then slowly descend as the cracks start to emerge. Yet Duffy’s there proclaiming his greatness at the start (“I surpassed everyone and got to the top”) and at the end (“I’m Hollywood’s new hard-on”) without a flicker of irony or self-doubt. At first we simply put this down to a certain cockiness or over-inflated ego, though we soon see its deeper implications upon witnessing him haranguing, or rather bullying, a bunch of film students or turning against our two directors, declaring them as opportunity seekers despite being long-time friends.
As such, with Duffy never really developing as a character (though you could argue the case that he regresses), it is – paradoxically – the cracks which hold Overnight together. As The Boondock Saints struggles through casting, wrangles with Miramax, production and then trying to find a buyer, we get a gradual revelation of a cutthroat business which proves as fascinating as it is discomforting. Likewise, the music side of things as the Brood firstly fail to gain a record deal and then, once they have secured one, sell only 690 copies of their debut album draws us in with a certain voyeuristic glee.
And yet, were Duffy not there, Overnight would struggle to maintain the interest as much as it does. He is the film’s centre and as such his personality, no matter how repulsive it may be, allows the directors’ to override certain failings. Indeed, as an example of basic documentary filmmaking, irrespective of subject, Overnight can be found lacking. Interviews are poorly conducted, the use of intertitles feels almost belated in their deployment, and there are a number of gaps which can prove frustrating. From interviews given by directors Mark Brian Smith and Tony Montana since the film’s release we’ve been able to hear about a number of instances – the Ewan MacGregor meeting; Duffy’s dismissal of Brad Pitt’s suitability in one of the lead roles – which really should have been included as they would no doubt have clarified a few issues, especially with regards to the animosity which developed between our “star” and Harvey Weinstein.
On the other hand the comparative amateurish qualities do allow us an up close view. If you want to hear Duffy call Kenneth Branagh a “cunt” and seemingly everyone else in the industry a “cocksucker” then it’s all offered up here. Likewise giant family arguments arrive unedited and there’s that fascinating scene mentioned earlier in which our directors suffer his wrath for what seems like an eternity – and all whilst the cameras are rolling!
Understandably this latter incident does raise questions as to the motives Smith and Montana had when piecing together the final cut. Certainly, there’s a great deal of footage which shows Duffy acting utterly obnoxious in various bars – far more than there is of him filming The Boondock Saints, say. They’ve repudiated such claims by stating just how much was left on the cutting room floor, which particular mention to various racist and/or misogynist rants (the latter of which we do see hints of), but then we’re unlikely to gain a truly satisfactory answer. Indeed, judging by what we see of him here, Duffy is likely to dole out any number of threats if we were to ask him his side of the story.
Despite offering the film non-anamorphically, Metrodome have done fine job in their presentation of Overnight. The image is a good as could be expected given the various low budget cameras on which it was shot (there’s a nice joke late in the movie when someone makes a comment as to presence of newer, better camera) and likewise the sound. The latter comes in its original DD2.0 form and as with the image is technically sound. Rather any flaws which are seeing on screen, save for the non-anamorphic image, are most likely to result of the filmmaking process.
The only genuine disappointment comes with regards to extras as Overnight certainly deserves more than what it gets here, though it should be noted that Metrodome’s offering is identical to those on the Region 1. As such, this means an extract from Backstage with Barry Nolan, in which Smith and Montana have only a handful of minutes in which to discuss the movie; a trio of deleted and alternate ending which offer very little of importance, though we do learn that Duffy spent – at some point during the documentary’s making – a brief spell in jail; and the theatrical trailer. These pieces are all fine as far as they go, but it’s hard not to want a little more. Indeed, a filmmakers’ commentary would have been a welcome addition as would one from Duffy. Then again, the likelihood of the latter is minute in the extreme.
As with the main feature, none of the extras come with optional subtitles, English or otherwise.
This title is also available as a two-disc set which pairs the film with The Boondock Saints.