A Charming But Familiar Rom-Com Runs Out Of Time

To its credit, it doesn’t take any time at all to figure out what wavelength “At Midnight” is operating on.

In stark contrast to the evocative title and the refreshingly old-fashioned opening credits sequence that soon follows (remember when movies used to have those?), the film begins with Monica Barbaro’s Sophie Wilder all but reenacting a sequence out of “Avengers: Endgame” in an intentionally cringe-worthy spoof of our current superhero craze, the in-universe film production cheekily titled “Super Society.” Handily channeling all the screen presence she brought to her minimal screen time in “Top Gun: Maverick,” Barbaro takes the well-worn idea of a pigeonholed blockbuster actor looking for more out of life than a career in unforgiving spandex and brings a lived-in sense of authenticity to Sophie, who’s reeling from the infidelity of her boyfriend and “Super Society” co-star Adam Clark (a suitably slimy Anders Holm).

The frenetic first five minutes of the film gets the obligatory table setting out of the way and quickly moves the action to Mexico, where Sophie and Adam must complete the last six uncomfortable weeks of shooting … and where overworked hotel manager Alejandro (Boneta) awaits.

Written by Giovanni Porta, Maria Hinojos, and director Jonah Feingold, “At Midnight” hardly attempts to avoid the tropes and conventions of the genre. That’s clear enough when we meet the doe-eyed Alejandro, whom the surprisingly nimble Boneta adds far more layers than exists on paper. The commitment-averse local keeps his decidedly unromantic pursuits focused on departing tourists because, as he puts it early on, “It’s easier that way.” But with little more than a wistful look here, an inspired line reading there, and that constantly dreaming (and, yes, dreamy) twinkle in his eyes, Boneta subtly conveys the idea of someone desperate for connection but terrified of reaching out to grab it. Otherwise, however, clichés include the usual gay best friend or two (Fernando Carsa as Tachi and Casey Thomas Brown as Chris, both of whom are tragically underused), an impending meet-cute full of sexual tension, and the usual mix of grand romantic gestures and unfortunate misunderstandings that genre fans would recognize in their sleep.

In other words, viewers would be forgiven for thinking they could instantly size up everything “At Midnight” has going for it. But, as with the most worthwhile romances, perhaps there’s more than meets the eye.

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