Review: In Search of a Midnight Kiss
Sometimes is really lovely to watch a film so unashamedly romantic and sweet that all you want to do after watching it is smile and hug anyone close to you. Think of Say Anything, the touchstone of lovely romantic cinema without cliché, and you have a strong touchstone for In Search of a Midnight Kiss. There are some lovely scenes of two-way dialogue between Scoot McNairy and Sarah Simmonds as Wilson and Vivian. The two meet after Wilson posts an acerbic advert to find a misanthrope on Craiglist and go on a half-day date around Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve.
He’s lonely and sad, living with his loved-up friend Jacob and his somewhat uncommitted girlfriend Min. In the movie’s first scenes he gets caught by the couple masturbating over a photoshopped image of Min on his computer. The scene is used really well. Rather than employing any gross-out gags, the scene is simply made uncomfortable and represents Wilson’s lowest point, serving to make his change across the movie entirely believable and portraying the changes elicited in him through his meeting with Vivian.
The crux that the movie lives and dies on is the relationship and chemistry between Wilson and Vivian and its pretty wonderful. He opens up to become a pretty charming and likeable guy and you can begin to understand why, despite his earlier indiscretions and air of patheticness, Vivian falls for him. She’s even better, a modern-mess of problems and dreams that only serve to sharpen her wit and make her ever more interesting and attractive. If her denouement in the film is slightly over-egged, she’s so good at balancing the witty bantering side with a fragile, broken sadness that it’s very hard to begrudge her any of her moments at the end. If Simmonds can’t use this to jump onto the mainstream bandwagon, that would be deeply sad because she really is that good as a kind of nouvelle vague version of a Woody Allen-written Diane Keaton character.
The direction and writing is strong, reminiscent of the majority of interesting indie-filmmakers from the early 1990s and late-80s in its interesting cuts and shots. More than that, this is one of the first movies in some time to imbue Los Angeles with some of the dream-like urban wonder of New York. It’s still a town of broken dreams but the affection it seems to have for the beautiful, bold and garish architecture of the city and the old Los Angeles of the theatre district brings an air of romanticism so often missing from films set in La La Land
It’s not a perfect film and some of the characters get mildly underserved but it has a really well-drawn ending and an impromptu version of The Scorpions ‘Wind of Change’ which therefore places it as the best romantic comedy of the year by a country mile.