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Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

In Search of a Midnight Kiss: Before Sunrise for the Hipster Set?

I’m a romantic at heart and, because of that, I have always sought out films about falling in love. If I had to make a list of my ten favorite films of all time, Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, taken together, would be on there. The premise of those films is so simple – two strangers walking around Vienna in the first film and Paris in the second, talking about life, love and everything – but these characters are endearing and intelligent and beautiful. In those films, Linklater isn’t so much making a realist picture, rather he’s projecting the best versions of ourselves onto the screen. We all wish that we could talk so confidently and intelligently and smoothly when we talk to someone we find attractive and that’s what Jesse and Celine do in those films.

So when I hear that there’s a new independent film that is supposed to be similar to Before Sunrise and even has the same producer, you can bet I’m making it a mission to see that flick.

Ultimately, Alex Holdridge’s In Search of a Midnight Kiss is really not at all like Linklater’s films, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The film follows Los Angeleno Wilson, Texas-born misanthrope who is still recovering from a break-up with his ex-girlfriend back home. He’s living with his best friend Jacob and Jacob’s girlfriend Min, who convince Wilson to put a listing on Craigslist so that he’ll have someone to go out with on New Year’s Eve. He winds up with Vivian, a fellow misanthrope who we first witness chain-smoking and pouring herself a large glass of vodka next to many bottles of prescription pills.

Despite all the comparisons to Linklater’s films, I’ll bet that description sounds a bit more like another familiar film: Swingers. That’s the film that is probably closest in spirit to In Search of a Midnight Kiss and not just in that basic logline, but in the overall tone of the film. Whereas Linklater’s films had intelligent, beautiful people having profound conversation, Holdridge’s film is more about disaffected souls finding one another and having banal conversations and a good time and for the most part, their situation is played for laughs. This is not a knock on the film at all, which I quite enjoyed for what it was, it’s just that the Before Sunrise comparison is not an apt one.

I wrote a column a few months ago about the problems with most romantic comedies these days and how my love for the genre was eroding because of too many McConaughey/Hudson films that I can’t relate to. Well, that’s where this film definitely excels; it’s not only a premise and a situation that everybody can relate to – meeting somebody new, potentially crazy but going with it anyway – but it’s also kind of fearless in the way it operates. The film goes to some pretty unexpected places, especially towards the end that might not be altogether satisfying for most movie-going audiences. It definitely dares the audience to stick with it at times and the ending doesn’t exactly reward that, but I appreciate something that felt a bit more honest.

There are a few contrived fights and make-ups that you’re used to seeing in films of this nature and there are a couple of treacly lines throughout, but for the most part the film stays true to the spirit. It reminded me, with its digital camerawork and stuttered dialogue, of a mumblecore film. I’m not the biggest fan of those types of films, like Hannah Takes the Stairs or The Puffy Chair because I find them trying to hard to create an inauthentic realism; with this film, however, it chooses a tone and a pace fairly early on and keeps it. So while there might be parts of the film that strain credulity, it all pretty much fits with the world that the film has created for itself.

One of my bigger problems with the picture is that the character of Vivian is quite clearly a little bit loopy from the get-go. As soon as Wilson meets her, she talks a mile a minute and emasculates him by making him sit a few tables away while she “interviews” other prospective dates for the evening. Vivian (and Sara Simmonds, the actress that plays her) is very pretty, but for the first half hour of the film, it felt like Wilson was on a date with Leslie Mann’s character from The 40 Year Old Virgin and I didn’t understand why Wilson put up with her. I suppose his vulnerability and desperation must be part of it, but by the end of the film I think there was supposed to be a deeper connection than I felt there was. I also didn’t like the shoe-horning in of a “character tic” of hers involving lost shoes; it felt trite and out of place.

It may seem like I’m down on the film, but truthfully I’m not. I enjoyed it quite a bit and it’s one of the better romantic comedies you’ll see this year and it’s one of the best things playing in theaters right now, a nice antidote to the spectacles. I was wrapped up and entertained the entire time, even the subplot involving Jacob and Min’s impending engagement. A large part of what makes this film entertaining is that the humor comes from a very natural place and the romance isn’t idealized as it is in most other pictures of this ilk. The film comes from a very knowing place when it comes to relationships, smart enough to know that even the best ones are only hanging on by a thread.

The acting is good and the two leads (Simmonds and Scoot McNairy as Wilson) are engaging, but they aren’t quite Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. I enjoyed the repartee and the dynamic that is quickly forged between them, but both actors fall into some disappointing rhythms at times. As Jacob and Min, Brian McGuire and Kathleen Luong fare a little bit better; granted, they are not asked to do as much but the film pops a bit brighter when the two of them are onscreen. McGuire almost steals the movie entirely, but he’s also lucky to be playing the character that gets all the best lines.

Overall, this is a film I’m going to recommend to everyone I know because it’s the kind of film that desperately needs support. It’s a smart relationship comedy and we really just don’t get those very often, so I think we should vote with our wallets and let Hollywood know that we’d like to see more of those.

Note: In theaters, the film is in beautiful black and white, but if you watch it on IFC On Demand it’s in color. Ordinarily, I find modern black and white films to be a kind of lame affectation, but for this film it’s important to see it that way. We’re used to seeing movies set in Paris and New York, black and white immortalizing those cities. Los Angeles has never looked so romantic as it does in this film in black and white. In color, it definitely loses a lot of that luster.

– Noah Forrest
August 19, 2008

Noah Forrest is a 25 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon