In Search of a Midnight Kiss [R]
Cast: Scoot McNairy, Sara Simmonds
Director: Alex Holdridge
It’s now official – I have lived long enough to see the films of my youth turned into homage.
I’m not sure how to mark the occasion. Should I cook a turkey? Bake a cake? Buy a cane? Or in the case of In Search of a Midnight Kiss, a Cyber-Dating-Age ode to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, should I simply relax and enjoy, as sinking into fogey-hood has never been as sweet?
Shot in black and white, a would-be screenwriter and a would-be starlet, broke-and-alone strangers, stroll around Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve – talking, laughing, running off on adventures, and contemplating an end-of-the-year liplock. Will they make it to midnight? And will they make it past New Year’s Day?
Midnight Kiss is a fireball of cinematic energy. This is the type of film that used to make the arthouses the hip palaces that they were, before they started burning out in recent years. I watched it thinking, my word, someone finally remembers how to make an indie. Amid the studio-indie biopics and trendy designer bleakness, it’s thrilling to have an indie that just wants to move and breathe – one that inhales the excitement and paranoia of modern romance.
One of the beauties of Midnight Kiss is its awareness and use of L.A.’s architecture. It gives the City of Angels a sense of place, depth, and rhythm, the way we often see with films set in New York or Paris. Often this element is missing from Los Angeles films, which suggests it's difficult for filmmakers to see the mystery in familiar surroundings. Some of the best examples – Chinatown and Point Blank, for instance – are made by foreigners. In this case, it’s made by a Texan – writer/director Alex Holdridge. We can debate whether that's foreign or not.
Like Linklater (who's thanked in the credits), Holdridge has a fluid style, a feel for youth, a fine ear for dialogue, and a way to suggest what isn’t being said. The film is hip without being snide. It gets two vivid performances from unknown leads as the laidback Wilson (Scoot McNairy) and the flaky Vivian (Sara Simmonds). And it makes a statement about who we are at this moment in this age. A very, very solid effort.