MVFF36 REVIEW: ‘Middleton’

Film: Middleton
Directed By: Adam Rodgers
Written By: Glenn German, Adam Rodgers
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Taissa Farmiga, Andy Garcia

Adam Rodgers’ directorial debut, Middleton, may be one of the most disappointing films of the year. With such a high caliber cast of likable players, including the Academy Award nominated actors Vera Farmiga and Andy Garcia, my hopes were high. But alas, Middleton falls flat in nearly every aspect with a trite storyline, dreadful dialogue, and awkward characters and situations that are rarely believable.

When initially viewing the trailer for Middleton, it was immediately apparent what Rodgers was going for: a charming “opposites attract” situation in which two adults find one another and become attached while fighting their own insecurities and woes of their personal lives. As easily achievable as that would seem to be, Middleton doesn’t have nearly the amount of charm, believability or execution that it seems to think it does – elements that were perfectly attained in its romantic counterparts, Lost in Translation and Linklater’s beautiful Before trilogy. The chemistry that should be apparent between the two leads just isn’t there, which is the first big mistake in attempting to create a pleasing and or effective romantic dramedy. Due to this lack of on-screen connection, throughout Middleton, most scenes aimed at being emotional or powerful don’t feel fitting in the whole of the film.

Much like the lost dramatic elements, the comedy is weak as well- maybe even moreso than the drama. Much of the film, with no thanks to the score, plays out more akin to a cheesy sitcom than a feature film with far-famed, competent actors. The writers tried to capitalize on simple recurring jokes that unfortunately aren’t funny in their first run let alone the many that follow, which ultimately makes for a very forced feeling that will leave you rolling your eyes in both boredom and disgust.

Apart from a charismatic college tour guide and a radio DJ mentor, all of the main actors in the film are rather irritating for the most part and very hard to care about. Vera Farmiga plays a kind of childish, loose cannon with emotional outbursts that never feel fully warranted. Her daughter in the film, played by real-life younger sister, Taissa Farmiga (21 years her junior), goes from few lines and very little personality to an obnoxious brat with unearned tantrums of her own. Andy Garcia, in the role of George Hartman, a cardiac surgeon (clever, right?) plays a kind of fusspot, prude-type that you just wish would let loose and tone down the whine. Lastly, the young Spencer Lofranco makes his feature debut as Garcia’s son, Conrad, and once you watch Middleton, you may forget afterward that he was even in it. With little to no personality and acting chops that shouldn’t have made it past a video audition, Lofranco adds to the unbearable with tensed-up lines and blank expressions.

While the connections between characters could very likely happen as abruptly in real life as they do in the film, the way in which they’re portrayed and acted out feel unearned and awkward making for a slew of scenes that leave a lot to be desired. They’re all scenes that we’ve witnessed before and we’ve seen them executed in much more believable and elegant fashion.

Middleton may have served better as a 30-minute romantic short with both fresh writing and original ideas, but unfortunately the much-needed appeal is absent. The mawkish dialogue is relentless throughout, with one unforgivable example in particular being when Farmiga, in tears, accuses Garcia, “I thought you fixed hearts.” This is of course accompanied by one of the worst on-screen kisses in recent cinematic memory. An embrace that could be mistaken for two Muppets with amateur handlers haphazardly forcing their felt faces together. All of these moments and more unfortunately make for 100 minutes of regret, as well as strikes on the résumés of actors that otherwise had solid track records.

Grade: F

Review written by: Brian Lion — Follow him on Twitter

Brian Leak
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