In Search of a Midnight Kiss
by Jef Burnham
Currently in limited theatrical release.
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In recent years, independent film has served up a slew of recycled stories about finding true love in a society full of apathy. So rarely do these films offer anything more than the same old formula of two 20-somethings walking around a cityscape, trading anecdotes and life lessons. Does this indie picture, about a screenwriter trying to find love on Craigslist, bring a fresh perspective to this tired equation? I’m afraid not. In Search of a Midnight Kiss is a cinematically derivative lesson in beginner’s philosophy, with little to give audiences other than a couple website recommendations.
The film’s running metaphor of my generation as lonely, lost shoes (this is where the film pushes lostshoeproject.com) is ultimately its undoing. According to this metaphor, we are sad, mismatched things to be abandoned and thrown away, which makes one wonder how we are worthy film material. We are not, if this metaphor is held to be universally true—as it is here. The main character is a cynical, whiny failure who spends all New Year’s Eve courting some superficial diva he meets through Craigslist, wandering through L.A. fighting and trading vulgar aphorisms, like a pair of foul-mouthed Henry David Thoreaus. It’s like an aggravatingly pessimistic Before Sunrise, with no interesting characters or insights into human interactions.
On top of the film’s already serious lack of decency, no film’s final message has offended my senses quite like In Search of a Midnight Kiss since perhaps The Savages asserted that abusive parents deserve our pity. It is made clear in the final act of the film that the one thing the filmmakers wish to portray is that pregnancy is the death of a woman’s hopes and dreams. I was aghast when one of the female characters reveals that she is pregnant, which of course means she must give up her entire life, including all her aspirations of ever becoming an actress, to move back in with her parents in Texas and become a waitress (I do not feel it necessary to detail in how many ways that is absolutely wrong). Whether or not this is genuinely the view of writer/director Alex Holridge, or he intended it simply as a look into the character’s thought-processes, is immaterial. Since the rest of the film is preaching its philosophy of lost shoes, it may be a little late to switch over to a character study when you hit the last 20 minutes of the film. Perhaps Holridge simply isn’t aware that it is 2008, and women not only have the right to vote but can raise children while working full-time.
When the film’s material is so problematic, I try not to hold it against the actors and tend not to touch on the performances themselves, which would be unfair. I have to say that the performances from the three leads here—Scoot McNairy, Sara Simmonds and Brian McGuire—are certainly captivating enough to keep one engrossed during the viewing. But that’s hardly enough to redeem the entire experience.
Jef Burnham is a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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