Friday, September 19, 2008

In Search of a Midnight Kiss (2007, Alex Holdridge)

Holdridge pretty clearly had Before Sunrise on the brain when writing this, and while it’s not up to the standard of Linklater’s classic romance, it’s pretty compelling on its own. One big difference between the two films is the differences between the setups- whereas Jesse and Celine were able to cut through the getting-to-know-you crap because they were on a very tangible deadline, there’s the possibility of a future for Wilson (Scoot McNairy) and Vivian (Sara Simmonds). Consequently, there’s that idea that they might be testing each other- explicitly in the case of Vivian, more implied with Wilson. And this is why Vivian’s final actions throw Wilson for such a loop, as it turns out her goals aren’t nearly as similar as he’d hoped. With this, Midnight Kiss transforms a simple story of youthful romance into a study in the different reasons we seek it out. In addition, I liked the way that, unlike most romantic stories, the protagonists of this film were struggling financially- much of the date consists of the two walking and talking, Wilson takes his final $100 out of the bank to treat Vivian to a nice dinner, and Vivian ponders giving up on her non-starting acting career and moving back in with her mother. And amidst it all, McNairy and Simmonds make their characters specific and interesting. Wilson is clearly having trouble coping with the fact that his intelligence and creativity hasn’t gotten him as far as he’d hoped, while Vivian is one of those women we all know who steep themselves in style and irony to cover for their pain. The stuff between the two of them is effective enough that it’s dismaying enough when the film cuts to something else entirely. But occasionally, Holdridge will insert something so misguided into the story- Wilson’s flighty mom, Vivian’s violent-redneck ex-boyfriend- that the movie got downright frustrating (Linklater was wise enough to avoid this). Yet In Search of a Midnight Kiss is certainly worth seeing. One final note: I’ve slagged on DV and HD in the past, but I’ve got to say that I’m much more forgiving to black-and-white digital than I am to color. The unique textural qualities of the medium are much easier to appreciate without the smeary colors getting in the way. But whatever it is, it works perfectly here, which makes it all the more disheartening to hear that In Search of a Midnight Kiss has been showing in color on IFC on Demand and could very well be released on DVD the same way. So, word to the wise: if you rent this and it's not in b/w, turn the color off. You’ll thank me. Rating: 6 out of 10.

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