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21 June 2008

How to Fight Loneliness

I was always going to like In Search of a Midnight Kiss. It has been plugged as a sassier, more cynical version of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset with more swearing, at least one of which features in my all-time top five films, and indeed, Midnight Kiss's executive producer also produced both BS movies. If I were to imagine an American rendition of Richard Linklater's BS films, I would definitely set it in New York and not just because I love New York. The main part of both films involves the main characters, Celine and Jesse, wandering around a historic, European city for some portion of the day which is limited in both cases by Jesse having to catch a flight. Midnight Kiss, however, is set in LA, which is not exactly the first American city you think of as being a good place for wandering in a getting-to-know-you sort of way and yet wander the two main characters do and nor is this film supposed to be just an alternative version of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.

It's New Year's Eve and it's oh so artily black and white. Wilson is feeling lonely and lamenting his lack of girlfriend, lack of job and excessive emo. After all, no one wants to be alone on NYE - people do seem to attach a special significance to this day, just like V-Day and feel that the way they spend NYE is the way they will spend the next year (I bloody hope not). Wilson is a computer-savvy loner though as he Photoshops his best friend's girlfriend's face onto a naked body, only for the best friend and the girlfriend to catch him in the act of worshipping the girlfriend's image in a most unholy way. Best Friend, Jacob, is a little freaked and decides that Wilson needs to get laid ASAP. They realise there is no time for MySpace or Facebook so he will have to put an ad on Craig's List and that he, grudgingly, does after pressure from Jacob and his girlfriend Min.

He soon gets a call from an engimatic yet slightly unhinged sounding girl who agrees to meet him at four but warns him that if he isn't good enough, she'll go and find someone else to be with at midnight. This is Vivian, who at first seems loud, cold, manipulative and even cruel but she decides to stick it out with Wilson, until six at least, thus beginning their wanderings around LA. Vivian, of course, is much more complicated and fragile than she originally seemed and her stalkerish ex calls up and leaves a voicemail every hour or so, demanding that she return to their house. The better she and Wilson get to know each other, the more vulnerable she allows herself to become and the less inhibited he becomes. They definitely click and it's obvious they will end up together when the clock strikes midnight.

This isn't a film in the American Pie style of "oh, shit, we must get laid before this specified time." Far from it. The characters don't care about getting some sex - maybe this is a little unrealistic - but rather, it is comfort, companionship and a feeling of connection to someone that they are desperately seeking; In Search of a Midnight Hug isn't quite such a compelling title, however. Even the other two characters, the seemingly happy Jacob and Min, have their problems. Jacob is incredibly afraid of proposing to Min (especially after he got his mother's engagement ring, which his father had previously given to his other four wives, which doesn't seem to be a very lucky sign) and Min, out of Jacob's sight but in the line of the camera, chats away online with a guy named Jupiter and even tries it on with Wilson, to his horror, later on. Jacob, at least, is searching for companionship and security - sometimes he seems he is in control of everything and then other times, he is like a scared, lost boy. Min is harder to read, although it seems that she will, with time, probably resent being tied down.

Like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Midnight Kiss is funny (and at times hilarious) and sweet without being in the least bit maudlin. But while the two earlier films were softer and more romantic, Midnight Kiss is at times very sharp, crude and cynical, which naturally appealed to me. Even though Wilson is a bit a of loser, he is a nice enough guy and the character is sympathetically drawn and well developed. In fact, all four of the main characters are rather likable, even though they all have their flaws; perhaps their need to not be alone any longer is so strong that it serves to make them more real and easy for us to relate to them.

Oh, and the music was great too, although the soundtrack hasn't been released yet so I haven't been able to look up a lot of the songs I enjoyed (a lot of them were by a band called Shearwater), apart from an awesome cover of that great Scorpions power ballad Wind of Change, by a band called Sybil.

All in all, I liked Midnight Kiss very much. I suppose now there will be the sequal, In Search of an Early Morning Kiss, set ten years later in New York. Well, there would be worse things...

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