Editor’s Notes: At Middleton opens in limited theatrical release this Friday, January 31st.
Hollywood is a tough place to work. Film is an art form but at the same time, the method in which it is developed is most assuredly a business. For filmmakers to continue to work they must prove that they can not only deliver quality cinema but also produce a piece that will earn their financiers some cash back on their lofty investment. Oh, who are we kidding, the studios only really care about the money. Actors are in this pickle where they hope to further their craft and be afforded the opportunity for worthwhile work, while still making enough money to put food in their mouths. Enter At Middleton, an awful “comedy” that solidifies that even the talented need to eat.
At Middleton looks to examine the transformative environment that are these educational institutions and the effect that these places can have on us as people. It is a truly lofty goal that the film fumbles continuously over its runtime.
Two families embark on a college visit packed day. Edith (Vera Farmiga) is a free spirited mother taking her buttoned-up daughter Audrey (Taissa Farmiga) on the only tour she wants to attend. Audrey has already made up her mind that Middleton is the school for her, and this tour is simply a check up to ensure that everything is as great as she expected. George (Andy Garcia) a straight-laced cardiac surgeon is dragging his son Conrad (Spencer Lofranco) to a school that he thinks could be a good fit, if only Conrad would just open his mind. Upon arrival at Middleton, Edith and George are immediately at odds with one another, their parenting styles and outlooks on life running on opposite tracks. However, as the tour progresses, the parents are separated from the group and spend the day finding one another, and themselves.
We live in a time when college isn’t so much a privilege, or something used in order to proceed on your ideal career path, it is simply an expectation. If you hope to be a contributing member of society, you will go to college and get that piece of paper. Otherwise you will be penniless and lost in this harsh world of ours, because a high school diploma is just no longer enough. Or at least that’s what we’ve been told. This growing mentality of mandatory continued academia has resulted in the ubiquitous college film. The genre that began with riotous parties and tales of debauchery has seen a transformation. Now the label of college does not necessarily mean copious female breasts, but can reside in a much more intellectual place. Well, ideally, that’s where it is. At Middleton looks to examine the transformative environment that are these educational institutions and the effect that these places can have on us as people. It is a truly lofty goal that the film fumbles continuously over its runtime.
At Middleton is trying to depict this naked growth while still featuring a bastardized version of collegiate immaturity.
The largest issue is that this more matured idea of what college offers is far from unique. Far more successful films have examined this, even with the adult mindset, and gone on to express the ideas more eloquently. At Middleton is trying to depict this naked growth while still featuring a bastardized version of collegiate immaturity. The plot is entirely paint by numbers, with characters that are depicted so radically to one side that their eventual “growth” is an inevitability rather than an organic experience. All of the characters are shown as round pegs in a square-holed world, running counter to all that surround them. The writing is as clunky as the pedestrian plot and it all reads as terribly inauthentic.
There are signs of desperation throughout much of the film, perhaps most visibly in Vera Farmiga. As each mediocre line is uttered the actress forces out laughter that is so false that it nearly pleads the viewer to laugh with her. It is as if she knows just how terrible it all is, and she hopes that if you just join her in this depressing drivel, it’ll all be ok. Nevertheless, this inauthenticity and lack of coherent composition will not stand. We are dragged on an “adventure” with George and Edith and see them go through the paces with such falsity as to be rendered nearly alien. The majority of the film is spent with the adults, complete with unspecified motivations and cliché romantic undertones, if the overt manner in which they are delivered can even be described as such. However at a certain point, director Adam Rodgers seemingly remembers that he has these young actors to deal with, so we are roped back into a subplot that is even more lacking in structure than the major thread. It is all a complete mess that can only dream of delivering anything of emotional relevance or at the very least, a chuckle.
More offensive than the film’s empty emotional core is its dismissal of the outside world. Both George and Edith are said to be married, admittedly unhappily; however, we are to look on their tryst with jubilation for the two or even admiration for their ability to discover their inner selves. This ignores completely that they have dealt their marriages a serious blow in their dalliance and in front of their children no less. No, I do not feel for your characters, and in all honesty, I find them to be unlikable, reprehensible, fake in a disgustingly obvious manner and altogether boring. No amount of pandering can save this mess of a film which also happens to feature a scene of marijuana use that is nearly as detached from reality as Reefer Madness. At Middleton is boring, unoriginal and altogether wastes the bevy of talent it has in its cast. The greatest mystery in At Middleton is not how it misses every mark so completely, but rather how it convinced this many successful actors to sign on.
[notification type=”star”]22/100 ~ PAINFUL. At Middleton is boring, unoriginal and altogether wastes the bevy of talent it has in its cast. The greatest mystery in At Middleton is not how it misses every mark so completely, but rather how it convinced this many successful actors to sign on.[/notification]