It’s been over a year since Alex Holdridge’s “In Search of a Midnight Kiss” premiered at Tribeca 2007, in which time his “misanthrope seeks misanthrope” blind date romance has rounded the film festival bases from Edinburgh to Sarajevo to Mill Valley to Austin to Thessaloniki. Now in theaters, it’s attracting some interestingly considered, if mixed, reviews (and is the lone focus of the New Yorker‘s film column this week), with many calling out its portrayal of Los Angeles. Take Scott Foundas at the Village Voice, who leads with “Did Los Angeles sign with a new agent?” He finds that “Holdridge’s film oscillates wildly between low-key romantic comedy and antic slapstick and doesn’t always hit the mark, but it has charm to burn, as well as a welcome eye for the timeless in a rapidly changing metropolis.”
Andrew O’Hehir at Salon writes that the film “has a gutter purity that makes you root for it all the way and forgive its patches of ultra-indie awkwardness.” “While ‘In Search of a Midnight Kiss’ has its derivative moments along with awkward patches — the inelegantly shaped climax tries to force uninteresting parallels between the two central couples — it manages the difficult task of creating a sustained, plausible and inviting world,” agrees Manohla Dargis at the New York Times. At indieWIRE, Kristi Mitsuda counters that the film’s hint at larger themes of isolation and technology “never amasses enough complexity, and begins to seem like just so much narrative clutter meant to lend heft to a slight story which, like the city it celebrates, conveys an aura of gritty glamour that only goes skin deep.”
“[I]n Holdridge’s movie there is as much to repel as there is to allure, and I cannot imagine leaving a screening of it in anything less than two minds,” writes Anthony Lane at the New Yorker. But he find something in the mix of romanticism and anti-romanticism:
That pretty much sums up the mixed mood in which Holdridge’s film unfolds, and which makes it such a neat distillation of what we mean by American independent cinema: the compulsion to proceed by nudges and sidelong glances, to build a character through the accumulation of quirks, and to gesture toward the deep end of human behavior and then dart quickly away. If mainstream Hollywood cleaves to the story arc, indie creators prefer the story sine wave, with a trough for every peak.
At the New York Observer, Andrew Sarris declares that the film’s “tempestuous love story, with its heartbreaking complications, is well served by a cast of comparative unknowns.” But Noel Murray at the Onion AV Club finds it “shows enough flashes of brightness that its more conventional business is all the more dispiriting,” and Nick Schager concludes that the characters’ growing closeness is “handled admirably by the two leads (whose relaxed charm helps offset their characters’ needy self-absorption and thumb-twiddling sulkiness), even if it mostly feels like the foregone conclusion of a contrived, overly precious narrative that must inevitably climax with a New Year’s Eve smooch.”
[Photo: “In Search of a Midnight Kiss,” IFC Films, 2008]