First, this film should have been titled Guest Relations. The second head-scratcher is how At Midnight squanders a fun premise and old-fashioned rom-com goodness because of an extraordinarily inane script.
Directed by Jonah Feingold, we review the 2023 Paramount+ film At Midnight, which does not contain spoilers.
There is a mid-credits scene where a character explains to a beautiful aspiring actress that the secret to acting is never to try and be funny. I’m afraid the makers of At Midnight take the sentiment to heart in almost every way. And not just abandoning any comedy between the leads and supporting characters, but in nearly every way imaginable, including endless stagnant, puzzling, and stale dialogue that mimics the film within a film that the script is exaggerating.
And that’s a shame because At Midnight has two likable and up-and-coming leads who deserve much better material.
At Midnight Review and Plot Summary
The film follows an actress, Sophie (Top Gun: Maverick’s Monica Barbaro), who is looking to break away from the superhero franchise that has made her career. And for that matter, from the shadow of her boyfriend. Sophie has been starring in Super Society, a Marvel-like franchise, with her boyfriend, Adam (Anders Holm), a star who is known for womanizing and tends to patronize Sophie any chance she gets. As most rom-com conventions go, Adam will soon ruin their relationship by sleeping with a makeup artist, and Sophie walks in on them.
While staying at a large hotel while shooting Super Society 3, she has a cute run-in with Alejandro (Father of the Bride‘s Diego Boneta). He has the junior manager looking at a prime transfer to the hotel’s New York branch. Alejandro has been assigned to cater to Sophie’s needs, something he despises. That includes making sure the bathroom is filled with towels. He retrieves some but doesn’t know the actress is showering. They walk into each other at the same time, the towel covering that is blocking their faces (and other body parts). However, when Sophie is able to cover herself and is about to rip into him, there is an undeniable and immediate attraction.
At Midnight was directed by Jonah Feingold (Dating & New York), who wrote the script with Giovanni Porta and Maria Hinojos (Cindy La Regia). The film seems to be transparently watered down with rewrites to the point of losing any regional or cultural flair while losing steam quickly after the first act. Where, exactly? The midnight dance shows the pair having genuine heat between the likable and gorgeous lead actors. It’s refreshing how much Barbaro’s Sophie pursues Alejandro, whose button chin and dimples, I’m sure, will make most women swoon.
The film is downhill and bordering on excruciating after that scene. If you look back, even when Boneta’s Alejandro cooks the star a meal, it’s filled with exposition and self-serving. There are multiple other scenes where the film seems just to be stagnant that sit there. For instance, when he makes Sophia a dish on the beach, he squeezes some lime briefly. She comments, “That’s a lot of lime,” and the scene just inexplicably sits there and fades.
The young man is a self-proclaimed expert in hospitality and cooking, yet his specialty seems to be beer and tortilla chips, which is the equivalent of going on chopped and then presenting a cheese and crackers plate. You never really learn anything about these characters, particularly their process and why they are passionate about their professions. Or, frankly, each other. There are several scenes where the filmmakers attempt to force conflict into situations that are uncalled for and can easily be worked out. For instance, a scene where he calls Sophia a “tourist” is easily explainable. However, it was used as nothing more than to create fabricated tension that wasn’t needed. The film even goes too far where you are cheated from the genre staple traditional cutesy moment.
At Midnight does have some admirable qualities. I found it refreshing that entire scenes are spoken in Spanish when called for instead of making characters speak in English for American audiences. (Does anyone remember the Harrison Ford vehicle, K19: The Widowmaker?). The leads are good and elevate the material some. Feingold also (though tirelessly) tries to incorporate an old-fashioned quality influenced by other classic films. Whitney C*****g offers the movie’s only laughs. Yet, she is strangely absent for most of the picture’s second half. The replacement is an eclectic bunch. All are annoying supporting characters involved in the politics of Hollywood.
Is the 2023 movie At Midnight good?
Where movies like Notting Hill flourished, At Midnight does not. Besides the fact that the film title should have been called Guest Relations, At Midnight fumbles a fun premise with golden-age cinema rom-com touches for a complacent script that borders on negligence. Like a short film idea trying to be stretched into a feature, this is a summer fling trying to be stretched into an all-encompassing love story. Feingold’s film would have worked better if they played up the politics of the Hollywood angle more and used its rom-com trappings as a backdrop.
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