There's a nostalgic quality to In Search of a Midnight Kiss. Maybe it's the black and white cinematography, or maybe it's because the film is oddly reminiscent of classic screwball comedies. Perhaps it's because Midnight Kiss reminds me of seminal independent films like Slacker, Stranger Than Paradise or Party Girl.
In Search of a Midnight Kiss is the story of two misfits who find each other on New Year's Eve and the tension caused by their oddball pairing and the suspense of whether or not, at the strike of twelve, they will turn to each other and have that all-important kiss.
The movie starts off with couples kissing everywhere, underlining the loneliness and isolation of Wilson (Scoot McNairy) the slacker main character, who has chucked everything and moved to Los Angeles, screenplay in hand. Working as a clerk in a video store, Wilson is caught masterbating to an image of his best friend's girl -- having photoshopped her head onto the body of a naked model. Suffering through the humiliation, he is convinced to take out a personal ad on craigslist seeking someone with whom he might ring in the New Year. Wilson quickly dashes off his call, "Misanthrope Seeks Misanthrope."
Vivian (Sara Simmonds) responds, instructing Wilson to meet her at a Hollywood cafe -- she'll give him five minutes to convince her to spend the evening with him. When the two meet, it's not fireworks, it's oil and water, but they stick it out and take a trip downtown -- on the subway -- in L.A! They spend the day together walking around, getting to know one another. Fighting. Retreating. He's all gangly limbs and awkward hair. She is black nail polish and oversized sunglasses, the promise of glamour or a glamour that is fading. (She's an actress.) Inside the quotation marks that lie on either side of their conversation, there is something essentially sweet, oddly damaged and ultimately charming about each character.
Downtown L.A. is alternately magical in black and white or grainy and run down. It is the perfect metaphor for these two lonely hearts. Both still cling to a shred of hope for the future, but they've each been around these blocks a few times and understand how that hope keeps moving another arm's length away with every reach. Will their Hollywood dreams come true? Will they end up alone at midnight with no one to kiss?
In Search of a Midnight Kiss reminded me of the heyday of indie film. When Sundance was on the rise, Spike Lee hit big with She's Gotta Have It, and when the independent film world coined its own stars, like Parker Posey, or revived the careers of faded ones like John Travolta. It has that feeling of real conversation (My Dinner With Andre), with all the thrust and parry of a couple of oddballs trying to find common ground. It is a portrait of two real outsiders, each with their own particular eccentricities, struggling to make some meaning out of the world, to find connection in the age of infinite internet connectivity. At first, Scoot McNairy and Sara Simmonds make unlikely romantic leads. But their laid back charm casts a slacker spell and we realize how truly radiant each performer is, flirting and fronting and brilliantly baring their souls to the camera, revealing the sensitive creatures tentatively peering out from inside their cynical shells.
In Search of a Midnight Kiss opens Friday, August 15, 2008.