We’re with Wilson from the off: this young man, all week-long stubble and indie threads, looks like he’s got the world on his shoulders. He’s hurting over the girlfriend he’s left behind in Texas and worried about spending New Year’s on his own. It’s that fear of loneliness that drives him to put an ad on Craig’s List calling himself a misanthrope who’s seeking the same.
Within hours he’s at a local French café being interrogated by self-styled steely vixen Vivian (Sara Simmonds) who underneath her dark sunglasses and callous put-downs (‘I’m not going to waste my New Year’s Eve on some total fuck-up’) is as vulnerable as Wilson. While she and Wilson walk and talk about downtown LA, each of them fronting and flirting and joking in their self-protecting way, we hear the endless voicemails from her boyfriend who’s crying about her unexplained disappearance.
The heart of the film unfolds on the streets as Wilson and Vivian wander about the city. This is the central LA of abandoned theatres, tired pavements and office plazas – miles from Hollywood – and Holdridge does a great job of turning it into a theatre and sucking up all that it has to offer. He reminds us how lonely the city can be. As we look at Wilson and Vivian standing in an empty theatre, marvelling at the ceiling and enjoying each other’s company, we thank God for Craig’s List, even if he’s trying to discuss art and she insists on talking about the cool rooftop pool at the Standard Hotel.
There’s some Texan folk on the soundtrack that Holdridge uses to anchor this chatty, often laddish film, in a quieter emotional reality. You’ve got to hand it to him for daring his men to speak their minds without coming across as unlikeable stereotypes. It’s amusing and spot-on when Jacob reduces humans to the level of beasts, telling Wilson not to be afraid to carry a condom on a date because ‘we’re animals, we’re apes, we stick bits of plastic into us so we can come’.
Much of the movie plays out like this: someone says something filthy and personal and we’re hooting with laughter and nursing a little heartbreak from the truth of it. A few other films come to mind – ‘À Bout de Souffle’, ‘Before Sunrise’, ‘Knocked Up’, even ‘Manhattan’ – but finally ‘Midnight Kiss’ achieves a laidback, Los Angeles hipster charm all of its own.