How does a Yin even meet a Yang anymore?

George and Edith are two middle-aged strangers taking their children on a university tour of the fictional MiddletonCollege.  After losing track of their offspring, George and Edith decide to play hooky and wander off on their own on a day-long adventure that will bring recaptured youth, stolen bicycles, enlightenment, minor drug use, and possible romance together into one neat little package.

A romantic-comedy for the older crowd with very decidedly French leanings, At Middleton is much better than it’s description gives it any right to be.  It doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, and it doesn’t particularly try to, but the familiarity that it breeds is done better than the average date night flick.

At Middleton
Co-Written and Directed by
Adam Rodgers
Cast
Vera Farmiga, Andy Garcia, Taissa Farmiga, Spencer Lofranco
Release Date
31 January 2014
Jason’s Grade: B

The script, by Glenn German and director Adam Rogers, contains a lot more depth and emotional exploration than the typical film of this ilk.  And, with a movie that contains as much talking as this one does, that certainly goes a long way in the enjoyment department. That being said, the moments of humor that are sprinkled throughout largely feel a bit forced and wedged in, but still function to provide moments of levity amongst the soul searching.  Even if done right, a film like this can always be in danger of being maudlin, but At Middleton always stays on just the right side of the line.

Of course, we may not even notice the strengths of the screenplay without the excellent performances.  Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga are veterans and, when given the room to breathe, they know how to make performances like this appear to be effortless.  As the stuffed-shirt George, Garcia is given the film’s biggest emotional journey and handles it readily.  Farmiga’s Edith is ever the free spirit and matches Garcia’s performance every step of the way.  The film would not be half as successful without their contributions.

Supporting performances are not quite as memorable, but still find ways to shine.  Spencer Lofranco and Taissa Farmiga (Vera’s real life little sis) play the college bound youngsters with charm and exuberance.  Wisely, their side story, while certainly not the focus, is never forgotten about and provides a nice balance.  Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, each of the kids seems as if they were more likely to have been raised by the opposite parent than their own.  Tom Skerritt as a popular professor and Peter Reigert as a campus radio d.j. both turn in great support work and are always welcome faces in any film.  Not to be outdone in the nepotism department, Garcia’s real life daughter Daniella Garcia-Lorido does the family proud in the couple of scenes she shares with her father.


Another winner here is the cinematography by Emmanuel Kadosh.  Rarely overdone, with the possible exception of the requisite fountain scene, the camera captures everything beautifully and knows when to stand still and let the action (or lack thereof) unfold.  Perhaps a bit let down by a scene involving a screening of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, it was an unfortunate choice to so prominently feature the definitive example of the type of film this is going for, making the comparisons inevitable.  The score by Arturo Sandoval is also nicely done in the small doses that we get.

JASON’S FINAL THOUGHTS:

At Middleton is a great date night flick, particularly for those who answer similarly to the age question on warranty cards as the film’s leads.  There’s nothing new to discover here, but sometimes it can be enjoyable just watching very talented people doing excellent cover versions of works that we often see done much more unsuccessfully.  First time feature director Adam Rogers put together an excellent group of people to work on his debut film, and his work here points to someone worth watching out for in the future.

Review by Jason Howard, Film Critic