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FILM REVIEW – IN SEARCH OF A MIDNIGHT KISS
By Martin Hall
It seems highly improbable that Odeons the length and breadth of the country will be overwhelmed by millions of punters clamouring to see a black and white American indie flick but if there was any justice, viewings of Alex Holdridge’s charming In Search Of A Midnight Kiss would need to be fortified with security guards to quell the crowds.
In Search Of A Midnight Kiss is a tender, filthy and funny romantic comedy, the sort of film Woody Allen would still make if he hadn’t disappeared up his own arse after Crimes and Misdemeanours. The film begins with Allen’s imprimatur of opening credits appearing in simple white writing on a plain black background as gentle, wistful music plays.
The plot centres around frustrated screenwriter Wilson (played by Scoot McNairy), who has moved from Texas to LA (“where love comes to die” as he later tells us) after splitting-up with his long-term girlfriend. Depressed at the thought of having to spend New Year’s Eve alone – thus missing out on the title’s midnight kiss at the stroke of 12 – he signs up to dating site Craigslist on the morning of 31st December. His advertisement begins ‘Misanthrope seeks misanthrope’ and continues in a similar cynical vein.
Surprisingly he receives a response from the beautiful Vivienne (Sarah Simmonds) who says she will meet him at 4pm. His roommate Jacob (Brian McGuire) lends him his car to go on the date but not before he gives him a handful of condoms – “Woah! Jesus, I don’t need five.”
He meets aspiring actress Vivienne at a local café and is shocked at her initial abrasiveness and startling honesty; she tells him she is seeing other men that day and will decide who she wants to see in the New Year with – “I don’t want to spend it with some total fuck-up.” She advises him he has until before sunset – and there’s a clue – to impress her.
The film’s Executive Producer is Anne Walker-McBay who produced Richard Linklater’s outstanding Before Sunrise and Before Sunset and this movie, rather than Julie Delpy’s Two Days In Paris, is the natural heir to those. Although Wilson and Vivienne have none of Celine (Delpy) and Jesse’s (Hawke) immediate easy intimacy in Sunrise and Sunset and this female lead is a lot more brusque and confrontational than Delpy’s character, she gradually reveals her vulnerable side and, as the pair walk and talk their way through a winter’s day in LA, the couple bond like Delpy and Hawke did in Europe.
The dialogue is not quite as whip-smart as that of, say, Juno but is more natural and engaging than Garden State or The Last Kiss, similar Generation Y movies. The excellent Mutual Appreciation appears to have been an influence on Holdridge yet the film never feels derivative despite the obvious Linklater/Allen/Bujalksi parallels.
The evening progresses towards midnight and the pair explore old theatres, Italian restaurants, ride the subway and walk around some amazing looking places. Indeed, one of In Search Of A Midnight Kiss’ most remarkable features is the use it makes of its location. Los Angeles is not Vienna or Paris and, even if Holdridge doesn’t quite do for the city what Linklater did for them, he still succeeds in showing its more romantic side. Entourage or Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip this is not.
The film was shot in just over two weeks on a ridiculously small budget and the austere simplicity of the monochrome is reminiscent of Allen’s Manhattan. This photography on this film is just as beautiful as anything from that and the lo-fi production values make a welcome change from the usual California clichéd glitz and glamour we’re force-fed. It’s more 1960s Greenwich Village than noughties Sunset Boulevard.
While boy-meets-girl and will-they-won’t-they are hardly original concepts, In Search Of A Midnight Kiss has the wit and wisdom to breathe fresh life into them. As Vivienne tells Wilson: “Love is strange.” Strange but lovely, this film is a sparkling gem; a real Lo-Fidelity Allstar.
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