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‘At Midnight Review’: A Rom-Com Like The Rest

Dir. Jonah Feingold — 3.5 Stars

'At Midnight' Still with Monica Barbaro and Diego Boneta
'At Midnight' Still with Monica Barbaro and Diego Boneta By Courtesy of Paramount
By Maria F. Cifuentes, Contributing Writer

Director Jonah Feingold attempts to bring his vision of a heartwarming meet-cute to life in his second romantic comedy film “At Midnight,” but fails to establish his own narrative and style as he structures the film after many other well-known romcoms. Heavily drawing inspiration from the plot of “Notting Hill,” the leading couple follows the boy-meets-stunning-actress trope, where she finds a sense of a normal life with him. They keep their relationship a secret from the public eye, but this fantasy-like romance quickly becomes a reality as they fall deeply for each other. As she is about to wrap up filming, they are faced with the difficult decision of fighting for something real, or moving on with their separate lives and dreams.

Feingold presents a whirlwind romance between a hotel employee (Diego Boneta), and a famous Hollywood actress (Monica Barbaro). Throughout the film, the storyline seems to point at the important topic of the unequal treatment between male and female actresses and gives way to feminist themes. Unfortunately, Feingold tackles this inefficiently and the potential for an exploration of powerful themes fall through by the end of the film, as he never addresses them, and instead closes with a happy ever after.

The feminist themes are first portrayed at the start of the film, when Sophie Wilder (Monica Barbaro) and Adam Clark’s (Anders Holm) relationship starts to unravel after he cheats on her. As Hollywood’s it couple, Sophie is forced to keep dating him. As she struggles with the desire to stand up for herself and other women in the industry, she is haunted by the question: “Do you really want to be treated like just another Jen?” In referencing Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Aniston, and particularly their failed relationships, the director highlights how actresses tend to get the short end of the stick in situations like this. They are discouraged from speaking out so that their image can be upheld and so they will be taken seriously by casting directors. Sadly, Feingold seems to ignore the issue as Sophie listens to her agent and never publicly breaks up with Adam. The film’s focus moves away from this topic and it is never brought up again, thereby silencing Sophie.

However, the film does a fantastic job of revealing the beauty of Mexico and its culture, as most of the film is set in a luxury beach hotel where the couple meets. The vibrant streets of Mexico City are shown during the scenes where Sophie and Alejandro escape their stress-filled lives to dance and explore.

The rom-com provides a meaningful representation of Latinx culture and diversity among the cast members. The dialogue shifts between characters speaking in Spanish and English, particularly in Alejandro’s conversations with his friends and family, or when he mumbles to himself. This contributes to the comedic aspect of the film, as he swears in Spanish and Sophie cannot understand him. At first he would mumble under his breath sarcastic comments towards her, but as time went on they would banter and she would try her best to engage with him. For the viewers who speak Spanish, his swearing serves as an inside joke and creates a sense of comfort but most importantly, the Spanish dialogue and the scene where Alejandro brings Sophie home to meet his parents, creates a warm and familiar atmosphere for viewers who can resonate with the Latinx traditions and characters.

Similarly, the heartwarming interactions between Alejandro’s family members enriched the film. As the family sat around the dinner table listening to his abuela’s stories and gossiping in the kitchen, the film immersed each viewer into the scene, making it seem like the audience was at the dinner themselves. The heartwarming scenes emphasize the importance of “la familia” in Latinx cultures reflect how moments of gathering and food are a staple that brings everyone together no matter where they are.

Furthermore, the chemistry between Sophie and Alejandro is palpable from their first encounter. Viewers can tell from their prolonged eye contact and sweet smiles that they have found true love, even though Alejandro had a strict rule to only have one night stands with tourists. Those who view rom-coms religiously can pick up on Alejandro’s quick glances and feel butterflies when he grabs Sophie’s wrist as she turns to leave. The film even puts a spin on a reference to “Notting Hill” for those who are hopeless romantics. The iconic line “I am also just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her,” becomes “I am standing here in your outdoor kitchen, asking you: Do you have a late night menu?” a line that ties back to their first midnight rendezvous.

Avid viewers of rom-coms who enjoy the comfort of a timeless trope and those who are looking for Latinx representation, with a cast that is coincidentally both attractive and charming, will greatly enjoy this film. That being said, Feingold’s film is not for those who are expecting the next iconic couple and groundbreaking love story, as it is not likely to be the next blockbuster.

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