It’s hard to separate one film when it borrows so heavily from another. This is the crux of the problem with At Midnight, a straight-to-streaming romantic comedy that has its heart in the right place but is completely derivative to the point of outright theft. I say this jokingly, but Richard Curtis should sue for how much screenwriters Jonah Feingold (who also directs), Giovanni M. Porta, and Maria Hinojos have lifted from Curtis’ 1999 classic Notting Hill.
The setups are the same: A beautiful actress arrives in town to shoot a movie while she’s plagued with relationship troubles, only to fall for a guy working nearby. Honestly, the only difference is the location, substituting sunny Mexico for West London; there are more than enough parallels to make one question why At Midnight wasn’t simply billed and credited as a remake. For all the differences thrown in, one can’t escape the feeling they’ve seen it before… and done better.
A slight twist has been applied to the actress role, as Sophie Wilder (Monica Barbaro) is nowhere near the top of the Hollywood chain. In fact, it’s pointed out that she’s treated more like her boyfriend Adam Clark’s (Anders Holm) sidekick, both off-set and in the Marvelesque Super Society franchise they’re currently filming. And it’s been happening so long, she’s starting to believe she’ll never be able to emerge from his shadow; she can’t get offers without the baggage that comes along with being his girlfriend.
(Side note: What is it about films featuring Anders Holm as a cheating bastard?)
Hugh Grant underdog employee role, high-ranking resort guest service rep Alejandro (Diego Boneta) has his own dreams of moving to New York and opening his own hotel but is too scared to do it, opting for the relative safety and comfort of his current position. (Not to mention the steady amount of tourist women who come and go with no strings attached.) When the cast and crew of Super Society 3 descend upon his hotel, he’s tasked with taking care of Sophie’s needs, which results in a meet-cute gone horribly wrong (he brings towels in while she’s naked).
Of course, because Alejandro’s relatively handsome and Sophie’s gorgeous, a curious friendship forms between them, resulting in meetings at midnight (I can hear Jeremy Scott of CinemaSins saying, “Roll credits!”) where Alejandro shows her the local sights. These meetings spin into something far greater than they expected, culminating in the requisite “we’re from different worlds” talk that splits them apart before the gigantic declaration of love sets everything right. Or not.
At its level best, At Midnight is fairly cute and inoffensive, and Monica Barbaro – coming fresh off of Top Gun: Maverick – is winsome as a romantic lead. She carries this movie well, lifting it well above those Netflix Christmas movies that clog streaming arteries every December. It’s a pity that the rest of the film can’t keep up with her, due to either its lack of originality or someone to match her as her opposite. Diego Boneta doesn’t have the range to support or pull even with Barbaro, and he can’t quite create a character we can truly believe, resulting in a chemistry-less pairing that rides solely on the script’s borrowed charm.
However, for all its faults, their characters make you want the story to end well. Each of them is stuck in a rut, and you’re hoping they’ll help each other pull out of their downward spirals before the final credits roll. At Midnight isn’t an abject failure; it’s silly, hammy froth that’s in one eyeball and out the other before you know it. But when it crosses certain lines and the obvious theft is revealed – one phrase in particular – it makes you wonder how in the hell this film got away with it.
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