' ' Cinema Romantico: In Search of a Midnight Kiss

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In Search of a Midnight Kiss

A misanthropic wannabe' screenwriter with a best friend he's had since they were two years old named - I swear I'm not making this up - Jacob cuts a swarth through L.A. on New Year's Eve with a melodramatic, self-destructive Jewel look-a-like who bears a very distinct and, thus, very, very disturbing resemblance to a young woman I knew many years ago whose name I am certainly not about to say out loud.

Everything I've just mentioned aside, we all find films which seem to have been specifically engineered for us and writer/director Alex Holdridge's "In Search of a Midnight Kiss" seems to have been designed with me in mind when you consider its obvious comparisons to "Before Sunrise" and "Manhattan" (two of my all-time favorites) but I'll address that momentarily.

So Father Time's hourglass is about to get flipped upside down and Wilson (Scoot McNairy), fairly new to the city of angels, is alone and depressed and at the film's onset caught in the most uncompromising of positions. Therefore his roommate and best friend takes it upon himself to post an ad on Craigslist in order to score Wilson a date for the evening of December 31: Misanthrope seeks misanthrope. It doesn't take long for a call to come through and so Wilson sets off to meet Vivian (Sara Simmonds), though, of course, there's a catch. She's interviewing two other potential candidates to spend her New Year's with and so Wilson isn't quite guaranteed a date. He's gotta' earn it.

He does and finds himself alternately appalled and intrigued by this Vivian as she talks a mile a minute and smokes like DeNiro in "Casino". The two traipse through the city as shown to us in storybook black and white while secrets are revealed and, more often than not, nothing of great importance is discussed meaning it is of the utmost importance.

And while influenced by both "Before Sunrise" and "Manhattan" it does not necessarily copy the formula. Yes, you sense if the souls of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton's characters were plopped down into two late-twenty-something's in the L.A. circa now you'd get Wilson and Vivian but these two are not as pithy as Woody and Diane, nor as intelligent as Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. That is not a criticism. I'm not as pithy as Woody and Diane nor as intelligent as Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Oh, I wish I was. But I'm not. No, I'd be more likely to follow poor Wilson's footsteps and make the wrong admission at the wrong time as he finds himself angering Vivian to a probably unfair degree as she stalks off in order to make a scene.

I can see the argument that Vivian is not someone you'd wish to hang around with after only a few minutes but that's you and I'm me. When she is interviewing her third and last candidate and treating him rather rudely Wilson watches off to the side and you can see two emotions simultaneously flash in his eyes - this girl is nuts, and, man, am I turned on by her. I nodded in recognition. (Reader's Note: As previously established, I tend to confuse insanity with charm.)

But Holdridge doesn't just let her vamp throughout the film, one-dimensional and obvious. I think Vivian's got a pretty good heart - maybe not one of gold, but a decent one - underneath that brazen exterior. Wilson, meanwhile, isn't quite as misanthropic as one would believe and a couple ordeals he finds himself in during his long night reveal him to be an all right guy. These changes, however, are not broad and lit up with neon lights, they occur gradually. Holdridge doesn't force the issue.

Holdridge also offers Jacob and his girlfriend as the counterpoint couple, in love a long time and with Jacob readying for a proposal on the final night of the year. In these scenes most especially there are particular seeds planted that seem prepared to take the movie down a very expected road but it doesn't happen.

Could we have done without such an over-the-top ex for Vivian? Most definitely. (When you first hear him you'll wonder if that's how he really talks or if he's doing an awful Bill Clinton impersonation. I still haven't decided.) And might Vivian's "reveal" late in the film not have been so obvious? Yes. But so what? The film's not perfect, how many movies are?

Most important, however, is the film's fundemental understanding of human nature. Contrary to popular belief, it's not just happy-go-lucky people (you annoying gasbags of joy, you) who sincerely have faith in the magic of the midnight kiss or believe true love can last for one night and no more and affect a person for the rest of his or her life. Misanthropes are romantics, too.


Jacob said...

Are you sure you didn't write this. Didn't I read an early draft that started with the main character buying beer at a QT and walking down Gilbert Ave on a particularly moody night. Only to find his apartment besieged by best friend named Jacob and best friend's girlfriend in a jolly mood, much to the dismay of the disgruntled lead, possibly named Nick.

Nick Prigge said...

You know I drove down Gilbert Ave earlier this month - the same weekend as the 'boji. There were several young, hard-drinking lads wiling the humid evening away on our old balcony. I wanted to buy a 12 pack of Busch Light and a Texas Ham and Cheese at said QT and see if they'd let me hang out for old time's sake.

Alas, I drove on.