Eye For Film >> Movies >> In Search Of A Midnight Kiss (2007) Film Review
Can love be found in the sparkle of damp streets? A soft-focus moment as desire is swept and sublimated into the tenderest kiss?
Do these scenes elicit warm memories for you? Or is it an emotional jack-off to a place you want to be in but can't?
In the last few days of each year, activity on sites like MySpace and Craigslist swells 300%. So many looking for love on New Year's Eve. Our ex-video-clerk (and award-winning film-maker), Alex Holdridge, has made them a movie. A dark, perverted, gritty, romantic comedy that, like a new relationship, comes with big indie warts-and-all. Then turns them around in an artsy, offbeat triumph.
Opening black-and-white photography of couples kissing exudes style. Tasteful snogging on sidewalks. Smooching by a river. Under neon. Christmas illuminations. Streetlights and shadows, and quiet corners. Sinatra croons "As Time Goes By" and a convenient voiceover says: "It's not just another kiss - it's all the hope of romance of the year culminating in just one moment."
But let's get real for a moment. Our protagonist, love-luckless Wilson, is segueing the female half of one such scene into a private erotic fantasy. It features his best friend's girlfriend, Min. (Here the comedy plays to our discomfort). Determined to find him a life, Jacob and Min cajole him into placing an online dating ad. Vivian, neurotic blonde with openly cut-throat approach, soon 'interviews' Wilson as her potential New Year's Eve date.
Gutsy performances and shambolic production values keep Midnight Kiss rooted to some recognisable reality rather than the glossy romcom it could easily have become. Rambling dialogue is cringeworthy from the characters' awkwardness rather than lack of writing talent. What at first sight seems like an amateurish losers' mess gradually earns its wings as human interaction shows Wilson to be more substantial and interesting than his tosser persona would credit; and Vivian to be more human than her pill-popping intro would have us believe.
Some of the location sets were almost too realistic for the film's own good. Twice, the cast and crew were threatened with police action when downmarket hotel managers were spooked by the sight of empty liquor bottles and prescription drug pill boxes. Much of the movie is made in downtown Los Angeles or Sunset Boulevard - surrounded by derelict theatres and decrepit hotels. But its verité style lovingly exposes both the city's decay and its beauty. Originally conceived as bitter critique, its ultimate appeal (like 'thelostshoeproject.com' that Vivian champions - 'everyone is searching for something') is one of the jewels in the dust.
Pacing is adroitly achieved through abrupt changes in emotional resonance. From initial, self-consciously polished cinematography, we are thrown into Wilson's desultory world. And just as we want to lose patience with him, Vivian erupts into the dialogue, kicking ass all the way from Texas to L.A. A subplot involving Jacob and Min's romance distracts us long enough for the outcome of Wilson and Vivian's date to develop the necessary tension. And perhaps the fact that the film doesn't sell out at the end persuades us to view the whole episode more kindly. The palpably low budget allows the skills of the filmmakers to shine through, whereas a market-perfect production could well have glossed over them. Rather than a movie for couples out on a date, In Search of A Midnight Kiss is for all the people who wish they were out on a date. Or for couples brave enough to ask if they are any better off.
This film, for all its flaws, connects in a way that sanitised romantic comedy cannot. Perhaps in idealising love it is all too easy to ignore the grubbier roots and miss what is in front of our eyes.Reviewed on: 27 Jul 2007