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In Search Of a Midnight Kiss

5 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

This debut indie flick is a crude, funny and tender riff on romance with a script that crackles with deadpan, spiky humour. It’s New Year’s Eve in Alex Holdridge’s monochrome, nouvelle vague version of Los Angeles. The day starts badly for aspiring, late- twentysomething screenwriter Wilson (Scoot McNairy) when his best friend and housemate Jacob (Brian McGuire) catches him masturbating to a Photoshop mock-up of his girlfriend, Min (Kathleen Luong). Neither laidback Jacob nor his girlfriend mind very much, and neither do we: we’re too busy sympathising with likeable, wry Wilson to find this episode anywhere near as vulgar as it sounds.

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.

Release Details

  • Rated:15
  • Release date:Friday 13 June 2008
  • Duration:110 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Alex Holdridge
  • Screenwriter:Alex Holdridge
  • Cast:
    • Scoot McNairy
    • Sara Simmonds
    • Brian McGuire
    • Kathleen Luong
    • Twink Caplan
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