A Sweet Rom-Com That Doesn’t Go Beyond Surface Level

Mar 3, 2023

Largely thanks to streaming, romantic comedies have been making a comeback in the last few years. It’s a move that has been welcomed by many, though like any beloved genre, not every offering is of equal quality. Paramount+’s latest original, At Midnight, comes to the table with a syrupy sweet premise and a pair of deeply appealing leads. It holds charms that can win over cynical viewers and even possesses genuine humor. Unfortunately, the overall execution — and more importantly, the central relationship — doesn’t quite hold up with closer scrutiny. At Midnight has a certain Old Hollywood flair that gives it a unique edge, but its surface-level approach makes the romance more frothy than impactful.

Global starlet Sophie Wilder (Monica Barbaro) is the face of a hugely successful superhero franchise alongside her self-absorbed boyfriend, Adam (Anders Holm). Their picture-perfect romance is shattered when, in the midst of filming their third movie, Sophie learns Adam is cheating on her. Despite being thoroughly put-off, Sophie is coerced into keeping their breakup quiet as production continues on location in Mexico. There, she meets the dreamy manager of her hotel, Alejandro (Diego Boneta), who claims to have big dreams and isn’t too thrilled at the prospect of babysitting actors. However, it isn’t long before sparks begin to fly between Sophie and Alejandro through a series of meet-ups at midnight, paving the way for a deeper connection to grow.

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Diego Boneta and Monica Barbaro in At Midnight

Director Jonah Feingold, who co-wrote the script alongside Maria Hinojos and Giovanni M. Porta, couldn’t have picked a better setting for At Midnight, as the beachside sights of the Riviera Maya in Mexico (and the hotel that serves as the backdrop for much of the plot) elicit feelings of warmth and easygoing relaxation. It sets an enticing stage for a star-crossed romance, and Feingold gets Sophie and Alejandro’s story off to a promising start with the requisite meet-cute. It’s both endearing and awkward, and the snippiness in their banter gives the idea it’ll be a slow burn path to love. That isn’t quite the case, as At Midnight is more interested in seeing how they work together rather than get together, but Sophie and Alejandro still make for a very sweet couple. It is easy to buy into their early flirtation, particularly because Barbaro and Boneta have real chemistry. This is especially clear during one of their midnight adventures when they go dancing, though the initial decision to have their thoughts heard as voiceover veers a bit closer to cringe.

The biggest issue facing At Midnight is that Feingold, Hinojos, and Porta have set up a myriad of potential obstacles for Sophie and Alejandro that never become real problems. There’s Sophie’s fake relationship with Adam, and the rule that says Alejandro cannot date hotel guests. These factors are the reasons why the couple can only meet at midnight. As the film progresses, the stakes lessen considerably. When conflict actually does spring up around Sophie and Alejandro, it feels manufactured and intended only to drag out the runtime. Furthermore, genuinely compelling threads about Sophie’s career beyond the superhero franchise are left dangling, keeping At Midnight’s story firmly at the surface.

Monica Barbaro and Diego Boneta in At Midnight

For a fluffy rom-com, that isn’t a terrible thing. Sometimes, the charm of a romance is simply the dynamic at its center, and little else around it matters. Luckily, Feingold has certainly crafted a movie with its own personality. Whether it be through old-fashioned transitions or the charming opening credits, Feingold gives At Midnight a classical touch that brings one back to movies of decades past. One of the best parts of At Midnight is that the Mexico-based characters actually speak Spanish rather than reverting to English when they realistically wouldn’t. It lends the film an authentic touch and gives it a real sense of place. Additionally, the pop culture-specific humor actually lands more often than not, particularly when it comes to satirical gags about building out franchises. Coming off Top Gun: Maverick, Barbaro really gets the opportunity to shine here as an actor caught at a crossroads, and Boneta cements his appeal as a romantic hero. Supporting players Catherine Cohen and Casey Thomas Brown get in some good laughs, though like a handful of other elements within At Midnight, their characters’ over-the-top nature sometimes clash with the quieter side of the film.

At Midnight isn’t the strongest rom-com, largely due to obligatory conflicts that feel less organic than they should. However, through the earnestness of the leads, the movie manages to be an entertaining ride, albeit one that might not linger long in viewers’ minds. With love in the air thanks to the imminent arrival of Valentine’s Day, hopeless romantics will likely find plenty to enjoy about At Midnight. It’s a sweet, slight slice of love-induced bliss.

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At Midnight begins streaming on Paramount+ Friday, February 10. It is 100 minutes long and rated R for some language.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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