Echoes of Jim Jarmusch and Richard Linklater are all over In Search of a Midnight Kiss. Executive produced by Anne Walker ( Before Sunrise, Dazed and Confused ) this snarky romantic comedy follows fledgling Texan screenwriter Wilson (Scoot McNairy of Art School Confidential ) in his search for someone to kiss on New Year’s Eve. With references to all the New Wave majors, Search begins like an in-joke about lonesome MySpace hipsters and ends a rather layered treatise on change and identity in places we don’t call home. A small but ostensibly loyal following seem likely.
A 29-year-old Texan transplant, Wilson has suffered a bad year. In the interest of starting a new year on good terms, his best friend Jacob (Brian McGuire) pressures him to place a date request on Craigslist. Through this ad, he meets Vivian (Sara Simmonds). As beautiful as she is manic, Vivian comes off like a control freak with major trust issues. Quickly, we learn she’s left a dangerous relationship and, via some rather studied performances and naturalistic dialogue, Vivian’s absurd emotional armor proves artificial.
A longing for security peppers the dialogue between these two, whose first date is the primary content of the film. Vivian’s in disarray and Wilson, a self-declared misanthrope, is looking for signs of sanity in all the wrong places. A momentary comment about the loss of theatre in Los Angeles is an interesting invocation of the failure of corporations to provide the safety they promise. The dialogue in front of the defunct Los Angeles Stock Exchange pinpoints the film’s comment on a lack of reliable leadership, while the constant jump cuts and gritty black-and-white cinematography almost speak to a lost relationship with reality, or at least a detachment from other people.
Though disaffect is certainly a recurrent mood, Search is a strangely heartfelt little film—a lot like Swingers but with a more cynical edge. One wonders if the film offers a few words of encouragement to a generation that has been trained to seek prepackaged security. Perhaps those words are, to quote Winona Ryder’s valedictorian acceptance speech in Reality Bites, “The answer is I don’t know.”
IFC First Take
Cast: Scoot McNairy, Sara Simmonds, Brian McGuire, Katy Luong and Nic Harcourt
Director/Screenwriter: Alex Holdridge
Producers: Seth McNairy and Seth Caplan
Genre: Romantic comedy
Running time: 90 min.
Release date: June 18 NY