In Search of a Midnight Kiss, 15
Lonely hearts meet up and make magic
Sunday 15 June 2008
If I had to specify my ideal film, I'd probably go for a dialogue-heavy romantic comedy about a witty, neurotic man and woman walking around a city, exchanging frank theories of love and life. Favourite examples would be Annie Hall, When Harry Met Sally, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Two Days in Paris, and – if I can cheat by including a film about men bantering, rather than men and women – Swingers.
A worthy addition to this list is In Search of a Midnight Kiss, a sparkling black-and-white gem made by an unknown Texan writer-director, Alex Holdridge, and some of his equally unknown friends. It looks as if it's shot on the cheapest camera on the market, and yet it also looks magical. The dialogue is quotable, filthy and hilarious, and yet it sounds like genuine conversation. And the actors are charismatic and talented, and yet they're always believable as human – all too human – beings.
The film is set over 24 hours. Wilson (the wondrously named Scoot McNairy) is an aspiring screenwriter who's moved to Hollywood, but months of disappointment and humiliation are about to be capped by a New Year's Eve without a date, so his flatmate (Brian Matthew McGuire) cajoles him into putting a personal ad on the internet entitled "Misanthrope Seeks Misanthrope". Minutes later, Wilson receives a phone call from a woman who browbeats him into meeting her for coffee.
She's seeing several other men as well that day, she snaps, and she'll spend the evening with the most promising contender. In person, the chain-smoking, chain-swearing Vivian (Sara Simmonds) is even more brusque, but she's also funny, beautiful and as lost as Wilson is, so he tries to charm her by taking her on a subway trip downtown.
The very fact that they travel by subway is one of the lovable aspects of Midnight Kiss: in most films set in Los Angeles, the characters rarely step out of their cars. Similarly, even though Los Angeles is the home of the American movie business, we hardly ever see any of it on screen except the Hollywood sign and the drug-infested slums, so it's a revelation when Wilson and Vivian go downtown, lingering over the shabby grandeur of historic theatres and office blocks which rival any in Manhattan – either the place or the Woody Allen film.
Maybe In Search of a Midnight Kiss was forced by its tiny budget to use a neglected location and the cheapest mode of transport, but Holdridge has turned them into gold.
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