Thursday, January 30, 2014

“At Middleton” – Movie Review


This week, the Winter Term of my movie class began with a screening of the romantic comedy “At Middleton”, starring Vera Farmiga and Andy Garcia.


When a couple of parents bring their offspring to Middleton College for a tour of the campus, they meet and develop a mutual attraction – but since they are both married, will they risk infidelity to pursue a relationship?


During an open house at Middleton College, George (Garcia) brings his slacker son Conrad and Edith (Farmiga) brings her ambitious daughter Audrey; together, they go for a tour of this relatively small institution both Conrad and Audrey are considering for undergraduate studies. Although Conrad is somewhat apathetic about this future and career options, his father, a successful heart surgeon, is desperately trying to find ways to motivate him. Audrey, on the other hand, looks forward to meeting with one of the school’s professors, Dr. Roland Emerson (Tom Skerritt), to convince him to mentor her, despite his reputation of being loathe to working with freshmen.

As the tour progresses, both George and Edith find they are interested more in each other than they are in the college itself; before long, they drop out of the tour and go off exploring the grounds on their own. While they feign interest in Middleton, the two actually use the opportunity to get to know each other and reveal a little bit of themselves. George is very stuffy and restrained while Edith is looser and much more of a free spirit who works hard to draw out George and get him to relax around her. While it’s clear to both they are hitting it off, the scarier truth they are less willing to admit is that they are developing romantic feelings despite both being married.

The unusual situations in which George and Edith find themselves cause them to not only develop a bond but also to divulge a darker side to their lives – the unpleasant fact that they are both unhappy. They discover that in each other, they have someone who is capable of rekindling something of a romantic spark in their lives that has long been absent. The temptation to cheat is increasingly strong. Once the tour has concluded and the day is over, both parents must now endure the long drive to get their children home – but will this be the last time George and Edith ever see each other or will they pursue an affair, deceiving their spouse?


Although its two stars appear to have quite a bit of on-screen chemistry, it’s not quite enough to warrant a recommendation. There’s just too much of the story that’s filled with patently obvious dramatic contrivances and conceits combined with some really cringe-worthy jokes, “At Middleton” is, unfortunately, rather unremarkable. If all you are looking for is a simple romantic comedy that’s saccharine and familiar, then this movie may suffice; on the other hand, such cutesy-pie scenes as a Chopsticks piano duet or bong hits in a dorm room with a pair of undergrads may just cause you to fall out of the story altogether.

One of the weaknesses of the film is it tries so terribly hard to get us to like its main characters, it almost seems to be falling all over itself in its effort to do so. Some of the scenes and situations feel like they’re so out of left field that they’re irrelevant; they fail when they don’t move the story forward or provide sufficient character development. An example would be the character of an on-campus Disk Jockey, Boneyard Sims, played by Peter Riegert. I’m still trying to figure out what the point of that was. While there are some nice views of the surrounding scenery in addition to well-timed shots where the sun encloses some of the characters in an almost golden aura, it’s hardly enough to merit watching the movie.

Following the screening, our instructor interviewed “At Middleton”’s director Adam Rodgers, editor Suzy Elmiger and one of the producers (I believe it may have been Glenn German, but I didn’t catch his name). According to the producer, the shoot took only 20 days on a budget of merely $2.5 million. Andy Garcia wore many hats in this movie; not only was he one of the stars, he also has a co-producer credit and contributed to “At Middleton”’s soundtrack as well. The character of Audrey, the daughter of Vera Farmiga’s character, is played by Taissa Farmiga; in reality, the two are actually sisters, Vera being over 20 years older than Taissa.

At Middleton (2013) on IMDb 6.9/10681 votes

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