In Search of a Midnight Kiss
Not rated, 98 min. Directed by Alex Holdridge. Starring Scoot McNairy, Sara Simmonds, Brian McGuire, Kathleen Luong, Twink Caplan, Robert Murphy.
REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., Aug. 29, 2008
Being alone at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is the most horrible of fleeting sensations. Everywhere around you, couples take each other in their arms, wipe their emotional slates clean, and kiss, exposing everyone who has no one to embrace at that crucial moment as the emotional and social failure he or she is but pretends not to be the other 364 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 40 seconds of the year. Director, writer, and former Austinite Holdridge apparently knows all about the shame of a lonely New Year’s: His excellent new movie, In Search of a Midnight Kiss, is about one man’s realization that being mateless at the turning of the year isn’t just a shot to the ego; it’s one’s inabilities and failures condensed and put on display for all to see. The man in question is Wilson (McNairy), who recently moved from Austin to Los Angeles in the hope of becoming a screenwriter. Instead, like so many young men and women who move to Hollywood with stars in their eyes, he ends up sitting around his apartment all day feeling sorry for himself while his hyperkinetic roommate, Jacob (McGuire), and Jacob’s girlfriend, Min (Luong), advertise their love, and he falls deeper and deeper into depression, misanthropy, and self-loathing. Until, that is, Jacob convinces Wilson to place an ad on Craigslist looking for a woman to spend New Year’s with and he meets Vivian (Simmonds), a passionate woman with emotional baggage who hides behind sunglasses and cigarettes and who has a taste for cruelty. Together the two lonely souls wander the streets of Los Angeles (lovingly captured in stunning black and white by cinematographer Robert Murphy, who shoots L.A. the way others used to shoot New York: with awe) talking and talking and talking – about life and love and family and all those other things characters in post-Slacker indie films love to talk about. And while the low-key ramblings of emotionally vulnerable twentysomethings barricading themselves behind walls of irony and painting their self-absorption to look like tragedy may sound like an hour and a half in purgatory, Holdridge is clever enough to keep his characters from slipping into outright narcissism, or when they do, he’s familiar enough with the art of mainstream moviemaking to balance the exhausted with the ecstatic. Wilson and Vivian’s delirious ransacking of her apartment before her psychotic ex-boyfriend arrives to burn everything in it wouldn’t have been out of place in a Ben Stiller comedy, but in the world of inaction that is Midnight Kiss, rather than being played for mere farce, it takes on the air of lunatic heroism. (See "La La Love You," Aug. 29, for more on the movie.)