At Midnight, 2023.
Directed by Jonah Feingold.
Starring Diego Boneta, Monica Barbaro, Casey Thomas Brown, Catherine Cohen, Fernando Carsa, Whitney Cummings, Maya Zapata, Anders Holm, Sara Sampaio, Kara Del Toro, Dazelle Yvette, and Victor Oliveira.
Ambitious hotel manager Alejandro and movie star Sophie meet when fate strikes when the shoot brings them all to Alejandro’s hotel in Mexico. Despite their radically different lives, Alejandro and Sophie begin to secretly meet at midnight…
There is a solid, socially relevant concept in a romantic comedy set behind the scenes of Hollywood drama, a love that arguably shouldn’t be and has to be kept out of sight with clandestine dates at midnight, all because tabloids and the press treat female actors (especially ones starring in superhero movies) differently, putting even their most minuscule actions let alone life choices underneath a microscope.
It’s disappointing that co-writer/director Jonah Feingold (seemingly a staple of the genre in film and television) allows the formulaic and cliché romantic comedy side of that equation to fully take over to the point that whatever intrigue At Midnight started with has long been squandered. By the end, it’s going through the classic beats in a rushed, frustrating manner, no longer concerned with making a point about such relationships or what it’s like to be a woman in Hollywood. It’s also not surprising to learn that it took three writers (Jonah Feingold, Maria Hinojos, and Giovanni M. Porta) to come up with something that inevitably falls apart due to an identity crisis.
Sophie Wilder (Monica Barbaro) co-stars in a fictional superhero franchise alongside her boyfriend Adam Clark (Anders Holm), who is caught cheating on her mid-shoot. Not only does this complicate the rest of the production (which mostly exists as a lazy way to punch down at superhero movies and the press tours surrounding them, which could have been much more satisfyingly amusing), but Sophie also winds up in an awkwardly funny meet-cute with hotel staff worker Alejandro (Diego Boneta), climbing the chain and with aspirations to open his own hotel in New York. She is smitten; they have delightful chemistry, occasionally overcoming a wooden and wonky script.
The first half also features smaller, cleverly on-the-nose bits, such as how fan encounters differ from men to women, with Sophie labeled a “bitch” by a drunken nuisance that Alejandro quickly shoos away. It’s tapped into the unfair practices of the Hollywood system, with a talent manager (Sophie and Adam work with the same individual) encouraging them to keep up appearances until the movie releases to ensure greater box office success. There’s also the reality that, regardless of Adam’s wrongdoing (who is a giant doofus), the general public will turn against Sophie, and the situation will hurt her career in the eyes of a sexist system.
These dynamics set the stage for a refreshing genre angle with which the screenwriters never do anything beyond table setting. That’s also a shame considering the Mexico setting is photographed lovely, often with appropriate twilight-hour cinematography during the midnight dates. Monica Barbaro and Diego Boneta are also effectively charming, investing us into hoping they end up together, even if there’s no question the narrative is aggressively ripping every page from the romantic comedy playbook.
At Midnight also struggles to be funny and appears to think that having characters drop the names of other celebrities is enough to generate a laugh. In actuality, it’s as cheap as the script’s approach to satirizing the superhero genre, leaving something witty to be desired. For some inexplicable reason, the third act focuses on drama within Alejandro’s family, which is also cliché, not interesting, and yet another detour away from the film’s intriguing set-up. The basic, fundamental rom-com touches are here and functional, but the filmmakers also lose sight of their concept until only something generic remains.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com