Finding romance in the age of Craigslist is not only the goal of the disillusioned twentysomething characters of In Search of a Midnight Kiss, but of writer-director Alex Holdridge (Sexless), who shows a penchant for old-fashioned romanticism that's at odds with the kind of anonymous hook-ups found via the Internet. In his third film, he takes a situation that's all about getting laid and uses it to restore his characters' faith in themselves and what they might accomplish.
Wilson (Scoot McNairy) studiously avoids celebrating New Year's Eve, rejecting the holiday's promise to wipe the slate clean and offer a newly optimistic outlook. But a particularly rough year, which included the breakup of a long-term relationship and a move from Austin to Los Angeles to work on a screenplay that ended up on a studio's backburner, has changed his viewpoint. He may project cynicism, but as Wilson reveals in a voiceover set to a montage of public displays of affection, he believes wholeheartedly in the magic of the midnight kiss, a moment that encapsulates the possibility for future happiness.
His roommate, Jacob (Brian Matthew McGuire), suggests posting a "seeking companionship" ad to get Wilson out of his complacent funk. Granted, this is after Jacob walked in on Wilson masturbating to a Photoshopped image of his girlfriend Min (Katy Luong), who takes the immensely awkward situation in stride. (Despite an almost courtly take on relationships, the director revels in the explicit discussions of his sexually conscious characters.)
In what used to be known as a "lonelyhearts" ad, Wilson writes "Misanthrope seeks Misanthrope," and to his surprise, Vivian (Sara Simmonds) answers. Jittery and demanding, delighting in her ability to put the defensive Wilson on edge, Vivian is not the simple solution to his anxious yearnings. An unemployed actress with a brittle exterior, she has her own complex agenda, and equally high expectations.
Holdridge creates the kind of lifetime-in-a-day experience of Before Sunrise (1995), but one that takes place in your own back yard instead of an exotic locale. With captivating black-and-white cinematography that recasts the film noir capital in a newly romantic light, Midnight Kiss is the kind of movie a young Woody Allen might have made if he could see Los Angeles as a real, accessible city. In a town where mythmaking is commonplace, the right kiss can mean the world.
Opens Friday, Sept. 19, at the Landmark Maple Art Theatre, 4135 W. Maple Rd., Bloomfield Hills; 248-263-2111.
Serena Donadoni writes about film and culture for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].