From Sunset Boulevard to Mulholland Drive and beyond, most movies revolving around Hollywood hopefuls portray the greater Los Angeles area as a soulless cesspool into which the hordes can’t help but sink. But in his Tinseltown-set feature In Search of a Midnight Kiss, Alex Holdridge reimagines L.A. as a place of renewal and unsung beauty: Skyline shots inclusive of freeway traffic, graphic compositions incorporating the city’s variegated architecture, and even the Hollywood sign shrouded by smoggy haze are lovingly lensed in stark black-and-white in obvious homage to Woody Allen’s Manhattan (though this hipster kid on the block scores his images to the indie rock of Shearwater rather than Gershwin).
This appreciative perspective is filtered through the eyes of two recent arrivals, both by way of Texas— Wilson (Scoot McNairy) and Vivian (Sara Simmonds), an aspiring screenwriter and actor, respectively— who meet for the first time on New Year’s Eve day after the former posts a near-eleventh hour ad on Craigslist. After a quick cup of coffee that plays more like an audition, with Vivian in the catbird seat and a flustered Wilson just trying to keep up (she decides to give him until sunset to figure out whether she likes him or not in a possible nod to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset), the seemingly mismatched pair catch the subway and end up wandering around the ghost town that is downtown L.A. — activities of which almost no local would willingly partake, but narratively excused by their newcomer status.
At first you wonder why Wilson even bothers. Vivian exhibits the nicotine-twitchy noxiousness of a starlet waiting to be born, and his sensitivity sits uncomfortably next to her apparent philistinism. Click here to read the rest of Kristi Mitsuda’s review of In Search of a Midnight Kiss.