HomeMovies‘At Midnight’ Review: Monica Barbaro hosts a 100-minute Super Bowl ad
‘At Midnight’ Review: Monica Barbaro hosts a 100-minute Super Bowl ad
February 10, 2023
Diego Boneta, Anders Holm and Whitney Cummings star in this head-scratching rom-com that’s more goofy than it needs to be.
Well, with any project that soars, one inevitably falls back to Earth.
“Top Gun: Maverick” breakout star Monica Barbaro quietly leads Paramount+’s rom-com “At Midnight,” an updated version of Notting Hill with a hint of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” in it. Unfortunately, with the film premiering on February 10th, audiences would be better off watching 105 minutes straight of the star-studded (and better filmed) Super Bowl commercials.
Barbaro plays Sophie Wilder, an aspiring actress who runs a superhero franchise with her boyfriend of five years, Adam Clark (Anders Holm, who has made a career out of playing badass friends). When Sophie catches Adam kissing someone else in the trailer, she immediately throws him out and asks how he’s going to end the latest superhero installment of “Super Society.” Production moves to Mexico, where Sophie and her shenanigans, including her best friend Rachel (Catherine Cohen, doing her best Rachel Sennott impression) and publicist Chris (Casey Thomas Brown), try to figure out how to turn Sophie’s career around and mend her broken heart.
Cue Alejandro (Diego Boneta), the resort’s handsome junior manager, who is notorious for hooking up with hotel guests. Alejandro unprofessionally barges into Sophie’s room as she’s about to take a shower, and their class-leading encounter is off to the races. Too bad it builds to the next… wait, that was all in the first five minutes of the movie?!
Yes, the main conflict between Sophie and Adam takes place within 120 seconds, including a hilarious cold open, and Holm perfectly delivers the Method acting metaline, “I’m in the moment, so it doesn’t matter,” as she’s shirtless except for a superhero mask when is made with a production assistant.
The problem with “At Midnight” isn’t the beautiful scenery or the random believability of the sparks between Boneta and Barbaro. It’s the build quality – mostly that there isn’t any. “Bachelor in Paradise” episodes have better cinematography than this Paramount+ feature, so the streamer seems incapable of competently financing anything not produced by Taylor Sheridan.
We’re only told that Alejandro is charming because he offers to order an Uber for his nameless hookup (Sara Sampaio) while he makes her breakfast overlooking the ocean.
“I like that we don’t know each other’s names… you,” she says as she walks away like a hot chick. Minutes later, the joke is that Alejandro isn’t the hotshot he pretends to be, but his strict boss (Maya Zapata), who doesn’t know Alejandro is giving guests private tours of his linens.
Sophie frolics topless as she imagines herself in a superhero costume in the mirror, and her friend Rachel reminds her that feminism is good and awake! Despite Sophie’s crisis, she’s not a star without her off-screen leading man. Sophie and Rachel have the best chemistry in the entire film – but that’s clearly due to Cohen’s character’s riffing, which at times seems desperate. But hey, it’s better than the script, so who cares.
Cohen, who after one-episode stints on “Broad City,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “Difficult People” and “Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens” and two stints on “Search Party,” is a strange in a way, the film carries more than Whitney Cummings’ PR-centric character, who is only seen calling in from Los Angeles and has no screen time with any of the main stars.
When Sophie is shocked that she needs her former (and current) colleague Adam to help her with an audition tape, Alejandro intervenes. Sophie is just Rachel’s casual comment. a man shouldn’t do anything which has an “oh shit, you’re right” eye roll and shrug from the characters.
But the saddest thing is that Sophie do she needs a man even though she is a famous actress. Alejandro needs someone to encourage him to pursue his culinary talents instead of bringing towels to tourists. Seriously, half the time is spent balancing perfectly rolled terrycloth as you fumble through the aisles.
Even though Sophie’s professional career finds solidarity after the breakup, the female director of “Super Society” encourages her to change the dialogue and block her on the spot to be a stronger female lead, Sophie definitely pursues Alejandro after hours, which is fun leads to discoveries. Mexico City and sleepers on the sand. Sophie’s budding relationship gives her the confidence she needs to completely let go of Adam, both romantically and professionally.
“I don’t need you to be ME!” Sophie screams at Adam during his climate revelation; moments later, however, she runs into Alejandro’s arms. Who is Sophie? We’ll never know, and we don’t really care. Barbaro delivers just enough charisma to prove that he is, in fact, a rising star, but “At Midnight” strays from every possible trope.
“I’m standing here in your outdoor kitchen and I’m asking… do you have a late night menu?” Sophie tells Alejandro in his last big romantic moment, stolen from ‘Notting Hill’. We get it, Paramount+ has a deep catalog of movies, like ‘Notting Hill’, which is now streaming on the platform!
Meta rom-com mentions and references real life, non-diegetic guy movies are not cute. That’s lazy. Watching “At Midnight” reminds the audience that while it’s cute and easy to digest at times, there’s nothing else here. There must be? Not always, but when there are more edgy and cute rom-coms out there, why waste your time? Barbaro and Boneta are better than that.
….and “it” is mostly manufacturing quality. We need to talk about cutting and mixing for a minute. A mix of Pond 5 sounds and Moviehead Productions’ “Birdemic” level transitions, “At Midnight” sounds like it could have been edited by Neil Breen if he ever downgrades to iMovie.
Barbaro previously told IndieWire’s Kate Erbland that it was a tearful moment with his family when he found out he had been cast as more than just “love” in “Top Gun: Maverick.” It begs the question (or assumption) that “At Midnight” was made before Barbaro’s turn in the “Top Gun” sequel. Fortunately, Barbaro still has plenty of time to show off the full range of his acting chops in the future after “midnight” hits.
It’s still a shame that references to everything from “America’s Sweethearts” to “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” didn’t immediately rub off on writer-director Jonah Feingold, who co-wrote the film with screenwriters Maria Hinojos and Giovanni M. Porta. . There was a lot of potential in the setup, the two leads, and the Paramount+ platform, not to mention the digestible mass of cinematic history.
The post-modern “Notting Hill” monologue reference can be read more as an apologetic insert or even an acknowledgment of the lack of high concept chemistry or production quality compared to a film of almost the same age nearly 25 years ago. like its stars. Now you can cry about it.