Alex Holdridge’s slow-burning but quick-onits-feet US indie flick manages to have its cake and eat it. On the one hand, it takes a smartly honest, snappily cynical snapshot of the speeddating generation on New Year’s Eve.
On the other, it mutates into a slyly touching fable of the Cinderella-patented magic of midnight, via a poetic homage to big-city romance. But don’t expect the focus to be too soft.
As “lonely, hunkered-down” Wilson (Scoot McNairy) ‘relieves’ himself before a pic of his flatmate’s girlfriend, we know this isn’t Sleepless In Seattle terrain. On a short Making Of, McNairy calls the film “perverted, dark, twisted and super-dry”, which it is.
But a romcom it remains, of a hip, loquacious sort. When Wilson’s pal chivvies him to put a date request on craigslist.org, he gets a call from no-nonsense Vivian (Sara Simmonds), prompting a night of walking, talking and… Well, sniff it and see what happens, because the route mapped is unexpected.
Granted, this is familiar US-indie territory, from the alt-cool soundtrack (The Mendoza Line, the lovely Shearwater) to the smart-yacking, Linklateresque script and the loose-limbed conviction of the young cast.
But it’s US indie territory, trodden with swagger, using familiarity as the base from which to make its twists sing. The charming and lively group commentary confirms how Holdridge and co do that: the director and cast all exude the easy-rapping chemistry of long-term buddies.
The resulting mix of realism and romance feels so right that repeat DVD viewings seem like time spent with old friends.