In hotel rooms, everyone sits and waits. We have books, newspapers, television, pay-per-view movies, and a purpose at our destination, but we wait. We flip through the channels, read a few pages, and rustle between many printed words. Still, we wait. Our purpose is coming. But we must wait.
In “Midnight”, we wait and wait as the parallel stories of a screenwriter, Addison (Tim Rouhana) and an emotionally perplexed woman, Scarlett (Erika Stone) happen on the same floors of the hotel. Fifth floor, first floor, fifth floor, first floor. The elevator goes up and down just as much as we do waiting and hoping for something to happen. Patience is not entirely rewarded here.
That’s not to say filmmakers Court Dunn and Michael Matson Forest are unfocused. Merely fascinated. Perhaps too fascinated with the concept they have, two cameras each trained on the lead actors, all in real-time before and after the New Year begins. Symbolic, because Addison and Scarlett hope to find something new to augment lives already upset by various events. Addison is with a film company shooting “Kosmos”, an epic space drama that once took place during the Cuban Missile Crisis in a previous draft of the screenplay, as he bitterly recounts to a journalist interviewing the director, Norton Kavanagh (Angelo Fierro), who isn’t at all morally unsettled by changing a screenwriter’s pages to reflect his own ideas, what he wants up on the screen, so long as he gets the credit he believes he deserves. Listening to him talk to the journalist about the film is proof positive of a man who has no creativity anywhere in his body. He has only changed other people’s stories, never creating his own. Every thought he speaks is a cliché. He’s unnerving and yet there are moments during “Midnight” where Dunn and Forest have followed the wrong character. Addison has every right to be ill tempered over the changes in the film that aren’t his, though it’s occasionally taxing to watch his frustration and try to pull something out of it for ourselves. There also isn’t a whole lot to the other side, in Scarlett’s problems with her fiancée who has written many books and yet looks too jock-like to have gotten to that point where, as a room service attendant (Eric Luke) mentions, one of his books is made into a play.
Why bother with these people, though? Why stick to it, hoping for that one spark, that one line, that one shot which pours light on everything? Because maybe there’s a moment in here that reminds you of a relationship, something you tried years ago that didn’t pan out because the other person wasn’t willing to really try. “Midnight” is funny that way because of all the time spent at the bar, of all the moments in elevators (and it feels so very long, even at 85 minutes), there are still those moments of evocative cinematography, those character-driven moments such as Addison sitting at his laptop trying to figure out the latest rewrite of his screenplay, that display our side of life, even when they are far apart from each other. There’s an artful shot towards the end that says everything not entirely spoken or exhibited by Addison or Scarlett, where Scarlett simply walks down the fifth floor hallway after getting off the elevator. Even with her having been at the bar the second time, there’s more of an impact as the camera simply waits and watches. That moment proves life as a series of hallways and doors. In one, out another, and always on a long walk.
And it may very well be that kind of journey in the careers of Dunn and Forest, who, now that they have made a film of technique, can get to the business of injecting more character into their characters. “Midnight” is a good foundation for them, in exploring what an actor can do on the screen with what they write. Now it’s time to build on it even more.