Sabin's Review of In Search of a Midnight Kiss - Death to Hipster Cinema

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Postby Sabin » Mon Oct 27, 2008 3:43 am

I want to isolate this movie specifically because I think it's indicative of a larger trend I'm seeing in youth-oriented indiewood cinema today. There are spoilers ahead but I will say that along with 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist', I was deeply hopeful that this year would produce something honest and truthful about what it means to be young and in love during the course of one night. Like 'Before Sunrise'! I have been so fortunate in my life to have a few 'Before Sunrise's and a few 'Before Sunset's and although I'm pretty atheistic in my worldview, I'd happily trade any promise of afterlife for a perpetual loop of either the fall of 2004 or that one night in October that started in the laundry facility and ended in Grant park.

I take this shit very seriously.

Watching 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist', I was actively aware that I was watching a film with the guts trimmed out of it. There were myriad behavioral moments but unlike stronger films they never played off into a sense of familiarity between the titular would be lovers. But there were glimmers! And there is undeniably so much else in the film to like but I feel, quite frankly, that I was watching a draft of a great film. We have an Emo Dweeb and a JAP and the movie never addresses who they are and why they are the way they are. It's simply "I'm okay, you're okay" and quite frankly, neither one of these characters is okay in my mind.

But there's much to like and enjoy. I just found myself disappointed. So I ventured onward into 'In Search of a Midnight Kiss' which has a premise and an aesthetic that seemed irresistible. I knew going in that I was going to behold Amateur Hour. Mezzo-mezzo performances, shoddy camera work, a messy sound mix...all that good stuff you take for granted. What I was unprepared for was a sub-Mumblecore miasma of not simply bad performances but misguided ones. This writer/director, with so much good will by way of premise, doesn't just lend these characters one note, he forces it upon them. This is quite simply everything I wished was erased from my generation in one film:

THE DORK!...the writer in need a good lay!

HIS FRIEND!...embodied by one characteristic, that being generic goofiness.

HIS FRIEND'S GIRLFRIEND!...exhibiting no form of personality whatsoever besides being hot, something for his buddy to fuck, and tempt The Dork in a fashion unforeseen by humanity!

...and THE DORK'S PROSPECT OF LOVE!...The Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

I learned of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl from Essentially, a being of entirely too much energy, a little short and spunky, wearing a combination of Urban Outfitters and a garage sale in Austin, and embodying everything the Dork could ever want but doesn't know yet. The last component is variable depending on whether or not he is the pursuer or the pursuee. Because sometimes, an overmedicated hot piece of ass like Zach Braff (OOOOO!!!!) is the light bulb to which Natalie Portman cannot stay away from.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, folks! I will attest that the Manic Pixie Dream Girl does exist in real life. I've dated a few. You wouldn't think from movies like 'Garden State' or 'In Search of a Midnight Kiss' but that's only because they are viewed from afar. Up close, the funny thing about Manic Pixie Dream Girls...they're actually people who desire attention for very human reasons. I don't know why Natalie Portman is the way she is in 'Garden State', but I do know the reason why Vivian is the way she is in 'In Search of a Midnight Kiss' and I'll get back to that., they meet up and spend the day together. There are myriad character decisions that Wilson (the titular nerd) makes that defy belief and can only be product of a man who hasn't interacted with many people outside of film school before. All the while, his buddy is planning to prose to his girlfriend later that day but keeps putting it off. Incidentally, one of the decisions that is beyond belief is that Wilson digitally replaces a naked woman's face with his buddy's girlfriend's face and proceeds to masturbate to it on the TV in the den in clear view of the planet. His buddy and his buddy's girlfriend walk in and tolerate it beyond all human comprehension. His buddy's girlfriend is flattered. He surprisingly does not get his ass beaten. One would imagine that'd be enough for him to thank his lucky stars and not let it out in the air...

...but when he plays a game of Truth or Dare with his Manic Pixie Dream Girl prospect and must confess to something nobody else knows, guess what he confesses to?

They reconcile eventually and the film goes about its business making only a few grossly questionable decisions. One of them is to have Wilson's buddy's girlfriend attempt to kiss him at a party, being so flattered that he was masturbating to her picture earlier that day. Who wouldn't be?

Until the end, there is an almost endearing lack of comprehension of even mature idealized romance but then the film unloads a whammy of a turn that I will reveal now. It is so fucking problematic I was astonished that by age proxy I was associated with it...
...okay. Vivian is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She dresses like Kate Hudson in 'Almost Famous'. She smokes constantly, swears like a sailor, and is always receiving phone calls from his boyfriend in Texas from whom she ran away from to be an actress in Los Angeles. That's her big secret, that's why she's so crazed for attention right now. New city, big dreams, asshole boyfriend...

Wrong. Vivian is pregnant. She confesses that she doesn't know if she's going to keep it. This is while they're in bed after a night of no sex and adorable making out. She tells him that she will not under any circumstance have sex with Wilson.

Then she proceeds to have unprotected sex with Wilson despite a set up earlier in which Wilson is given some five-odd condoms by his goofy friends and she finds the condoms and calls him on only wanting to have sex with her. This condom set-up exists so he can find the girl of his dreams, court her for an evening, and then feel justified in ejaculating inside of her because fuck it, she's already pregnant. By Wilson, I mean the director Alex Holdrige. Alex Holdrige who has clearly cast a stand-in and has staged the entire evening from an idyllic, andocentric point of view, an evening that ends with ejaculating inside of a pregnant girl because she tells him she doesn't want him to stop.

Then: we get a shot of her in the bathroom, crying, wiping the tears from her eyes, maybe feeling a little bit better about herself because she met such a swell guy. And what girl doesn't feel better about herself after letting a guy she just met ejaculate inside her already pregnant body. She takes his picture from the mirror frame, puts it in her bag, and is on her way. They talk about meeting up again but perhaps it won't come to fruition.

Then he is joined by his friends who are newly engaged and they ask for the "gooey, gorey details" of whether or not he had sex and used a condom. He doesn't want to answer. I know I'm usually a bit squeamish about admitting to ejaculating inside a pregnant girl I just met, and they dance and tell Wilson it's a new year and a new world awaiting him.

This isn't just simplistic male fantasy but it's dangerously naive simplistic male fantasy, and dangerously simplistic male fantasy seems to be what Hipster Cinema does most prevalently. 'Garden State' nonsense, and now 'In Search of a Midnight Kiss'. Mumblecore offered us 'The Puffy Chair', 'Funny Ha Ha', and 'Mutual Appreciation' which are minor films but at the very least replete with some insights that didn't feel specifically product of such a problematic mindset.

'In Search of a Midnight Kiss' will grab a following and comparisons will be made to Linklater's masterpiece. All I see is missed potential and added vulgar baggage.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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