Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Movie Review: ‘At Midnight’ Is Another Movie We’ve Seen Before

Director: Jonah Feingold

Writers: Jonah Feingold, Maria Hinojos, Giovanni M. Porta

Stars: Monica Barbaro, Diego Boneta, Anders Holm

Synopsis: At Midnight is a romantic comedy about two people who have made the “safe” choice not to fall in love.

Jonah Feingold’s At Midnight has been done time and again in Hollywood, and it’s time for studios to stop greenlighting the same variation on the same theme. A popular (but typecast) Hollywood star (Monica Barbaro) in love with another bigshot star (Anders Holm) break up after Sophie (Barbaro) sees Adam (Holm) kissing an assistant in his trailer. However, the two have to go to Mexico to finish shooting their film. 

There, she meets the nicest boy in town, junior hotel manager Alejandro (Diego Boneta). After Alejandro accidentally finds her naked in the bathroom while arriving with towels, he apologizes and makes it up to her during the evening by cooking a meal for her. It’s there that they will fall in love, and a predictable structure ensues. From there, you pretty much know what’s going to happen. They fall in love, they go through many romantic escapades, there’s going to be a falling out, until one of them confesses deeply of their love for the movie to end on a happy note. It would’ve been fine if the script wasn’t so boring and didn’t retread tired clichés from every other romcom out there, but alas. 

The only reason why the film is worth watching is for Barbaro’s lead performance. As Sophie, she infuses enough charm for you to care about her journey with Alejandro, even if Boneta delivers his lines in the most stilted, unnatural way possible. Barbaro arrives fresh off of Joseph Kosinski’s Top Gun: Maverick, which was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture. At Midnight seems like a stepdown for Barbaro, especially with how talented she was in Kosinski’s film. But she remains the best part of the movie, as she seemingly is the only one who seems to care about the whole thing. Holm is also pretty decent as Adam, but he’s always been good at playing antagonistic characters, for some reason. He’s quite comfortable playing someone who we love to hate and want Sophie to get as far away from as she possibly can. It’s as if he does it in his sleep.. 

However, Boneta isn’t charming. His performance is too glossy for its chemistry to feel natural between the two stars. Since the dialogue is so clichéd, it doesn’t necessarily matter if they have good chemistry, because you know exactly where this thing is heading. They’re going to fall in love, have some adventure together, and then fall out, quickly break up until they realize they won’t be able to live apart. It’s written on the wall as soon as they meet. 

At Midnight also tries to spice things up through its script by offering a commentary on our superhero movie-obsessed culture, which doesn’t work. A haphazard line that superhero movies are “according to Scorsese, not cinema” after commenting on a cascade of content from both Marvel and DC (though, good news, they appear to be slowing down) and a jumpscare of a cameo from Supes (yes, that Supes) barely allows At Midnight to craft something tangible that makes us care about the romance and what it has to stay on the endless barrage of superhero films and television series audiences are getting. 

Because of this, the movie fails to deliver a genuinely heartfelt romance anchored by two great stars. Barbaro is a star, and her performance is the best part of the whole affair. She seems to be excited at the prospect of starring in more movies after Top Gun: Maverick, and justifiably so. However, she should star in roles that better take advantage of her talent than inside a soulless, Hallmark-lite romance with a lead who has barely any chemistry with her. Her on-screen pairing with Boneta is so dull that you’ll quickly wish the movie was over. Thankfully, the runtime flies by fast, but at what cost? You’re better off watching Magic Mike’s Last Dance in cinemas, the best romance of 2023. 

Grade: D-


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