One of the great independent films of the last 20 years, it was inevitable that Richard Linklater's 1995 lo-fi classic 'Before Sunrise' would inspire future heartfelt tales of fleeting one-night encounters. Quite that it would be aped in almost counterfeit fashion by an aspiring director so soon after its release, however, was not anticipated.
Alex Holdridge's 'In Search of a Midnight Kiss' serves as a love letter to Linklater's film in that it almost directly follows the same pattern.
Indeed the film bares little in the way of originality, taking a huge dollop of 'Before Sunrise' and sandwiching it between slices of Woody Allen's 'Manhattan' and Kevin Smith's 'Clerks'. That's not to say however that 'In Search of a Midnight Kiss' isn't good.
Set in Los Angeles on New Year's Eve, the story focuses on Wilson (McNairy), a 29-year-old aspiring screenwriter who has moved from Texas to Los Angeles following the split-up of a long-term relationship. Living with his best friend, Jacob (McGuire), and Jacob's girlfriend (Luong), Wilson intends to spend NYE alone and locked away from the world as he gladly waves goodbye to the worst year of his life.
That is until Jacob makes him post an ad on an internet dating site and Wilson reluctantly agrees to meet up with Vivian (Simmonds), a strong and aggressive young woman determined to be with the right guy at the stroke of midnight. A chaotic and dialogue-fuelled journey around LA then begins as the couple begin to get to know each other in the waning hours of the year.
The film's plot line and extensive dialogue inevitably brings 'In Search of a Midnight Kiss' closely in line with 'Before Sunrise', as does the deadline nature of the couple's romance. In shooting in black-and-white and honing in on a US city, Holdridge's film also bares a resemblance to 'Manhattan', while the filthy dialogue, black-and- white shoot and amateur acting cast nods like a dashboard bobbing dog to 'Clerks'.
Like Smith's debut, Wilson and Vivian openly talk about sex, masturbation and other topics which wouldn't usually arise on a first date. This lends some humour to the film, yet it also initially puts you off the central characters. Unlike Linklater's Jesse and Celine, there's not much to like about Wilson and Vivian early on, and both McNairy and Simmonds fail to generate any real on-screen chemistry.
Yet Holdridge uses this to his advantage and the relationship works well in engaging the audience as they mentally to and fro. The director has less success with the supporting characters, who aren't properly explored while the appearance of Wilson's mother adds nothing to the script.
The aforementioned lack of originality spreads to the various scenes in the film and Holdridge – who like Linklater is also from Austin, Texas – even uses similar shots to the director he so obviously admires.
This aside, though, 'In Search of a Midnight Kiss' will appeal to a broad range of cinema-goers and, especially, fans of the three aforementioned movies. Entertaining, often hilarious and with a good soundtrack to boot, it is a decent independent film which should see it reach a receptive audience.