It’s 1989 in West Berlin, and Manny “Tiger” Jumpcannon is stuck in his apartment, all alone. He’s trying to make amends with the people he’s lost touch with — and wronged in his past with some outlandish lies.
Looking for some kind of redemption or connection, he starts dialing up past people in his life that he hasn’t heard from in ages. But as Manny embarks on a series of conversations, it reveals that he may not be fully ready to reckon with his own sordid history of deceit, and the role he’s played in the misadventures of his past.
Writer-director Maxwell McCabe-Lokos has created a quirky tableaux of strange, oddball souls trying to find meaning and connection in a difficult world, rendered with a gently retro look and eccentric and entertaining writing.
There’s a laidback urban cool in the execution that will instantly appeal to fans of filmmakers like Jim Jarmusce or musicians like Tom Waits, who both look at the peccadilloes of the characters in their stories with an affectionate, wry eye and a grizzled old-school hipster patina. It helps that the visuals of the film resemble a great 80s arthouse classic, with rich yet faded colors and the textured quality of celluloid, and the score also has a throwback appeal without hitting the retro aspect too hard.
But the real current of the film is the voice in the writing. The script — co-written with Rob Benvie — is basically a long jazz-like conversation, but they offer a comical yet melancholy peek to Manny’s character. McCabe-Lokos’s Manny is a motormouth with a scrappy fast-talking manner and a restless, almost manic energy. But as his words stream forward, it also reveals a man who seems sincere in his efforts of “self-help jazz,” but still fancies himself the victim of the various small fires of his life. That mentality stymies the intent of reconciliation, leaving Manny literally taking a hard look in the mirror.
What Manny does in that little mirror moment is a ruefully ironic ending and a perfect encapsulation of his character, which of course doesn’t bode well for his forward path in life. If “Midnight Confession” were a straight drama, the audience would be left with a foreboding for his future. However — this being a character portrait rendered with an arch, knowing humor — we can laugh and shake our heads at how some people never learn, though we may also wonder about the blind spots to our own character weaknesses.