Anchor Bay Entertainment’s At Middleton is a complete surprise of a movie. This bittersweet story about love and self-realization completely defies the standard rom-com formula. Instead, it presents a story that in the end is both hopeful and heartbreaking. The story, co-written by Glenn German and Adam Rogers is the central point of this movie’s surprising success. The pair’s overall writing is just as important to the movie’s enjoyment. And last but definitely not least, the acting on the part of stars Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga seals the deal for At Middleton. Their on-screen chemistry will have audiences laughing right along with them and then tearing up as the story progresses. Whether audiences lean more towards the acting, the writing or the story itself, what can be agreed upon is that all three factors work together to make At Middleton one of the best new indie flicks of 2014.
Glenn German and Adam Rogers have crafted in their script for At Middleton a story that is one of the best new indie flicks of 2014. The story, which centers on George Hartman (Andy Garcia) and Edith Martin (Vera Farmiga) completely defies the standard rom-com formula. Audiences start out believing that it will be another rom-com. That’s because George and Edith start out just like any rom-com couple. They start out hating each other, but eventually fall for each other as their visit to Middleton College progresses. What’s really funny is that in the case of this story, the initial hatred for one another happens because Edith is accused by George of having stolen George’s parking space. Garcia’s portrayal of the uptight Hartman makes this moment especially entertaining. The acting will be discussed later. Getting back on track, the bond formed between George and Edith makes the story’s eventual outcome both heartbreaking and hopeful. The ending won’t be revealed here for the sake of those that have yet to see this story unfold. But simply put, the story’s final act is anything but the standard rom-com finale. Those audiences that lambasted the movie likely did so because of this aspect. Audiences in general have been overly programmed to expect the standard gift-wrapped happy ending from stories. So when a story like this comes along with its more emotional ending, it creates a feeling of discontent in those viewers. However, those that are open-minded enough to understand the story in its whole will appreciate that ending. And in retrospect, they will find that they appreciate the story as the endearing work that it is.
German and Rogers’ story is the central point of At Middleton’s success. One reason that the story works as well as it does is the pair’s writing. What parent or student hasn’t had the “joy” of the college campus tour at one point or another? Using that as the story’s base is both original and hilarious. German and Rogers display so much wit with jokes about campus crime and the physical depiction of the tour leader. The tour leader here, named Justin, is depicted by actor Nicholas Braun. And the pair will even have some viewers laughing later in the story thanks to the subtle joke about why college students really attend a given college as Audrey (Taissa Farmiga) snaps in learning why her favorite professor wouldn’t be her advisor. These are just some of the ways in which German and Roger’s writing makes At Middleton work as well as it does. One would be remiss to ignore the more emotional aspects of the writing, too. That also plays a role in the movie’s overall success.
The more comical aspects of At Middleton make for more than their share of laughs. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the story’s more emotional moments that make up the story’s second and third act will leave any viewer tearing up. Edith and George’s ultimate realization about their unhappy marriages is one of the most powerful of those moments. German and Rogers perfectly timed this moment within the context of the story. After all of the fun that George and Edith had enjoyed through the first act, this moment is a clearly defined transition point in the story. It puts the breaks on everything and lets audiences know that things have just changed in a big way. That realization does slow down the story. But it also plays an integral role in the story’s eventual outcome. German and Rogers are both to be commended on balancing this moment with the rest of their story. And again, that outcome will not be revealed here for the sake of those that have yet to see the movie. But it definitely puts the rest of the story into full context. It’s just one more example of German and Rogers’ expertise in writing their script.
The writing on the part of German and Rogers, and their overall story are both important to the whole that is At Middleton. Those that are open-minded enough will agree with that when they watch this surprisingly gripping and entertaining story for themselves. As important as both noted factors are to the whole here, there is one more factor that should be taken into account in the story’s success. That factor is the acting on the part of the cast; More specifically, the acting on the part of Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga. Not to be left out, Nicholas Braun shines, too as campus tour leader Justin. The chemistry between Garcia and Farmiga is so strong throughout the story. This applies both in their lighthearted moments and in their deeper, more emotional moments. Their chemistry is so strong that it pulls viewers in with ease, making them completely forget that they’re watching two people acting. That is a tribute to their work. It is not something that can be said even of today’s major motion pictures.
Not to be outdone by Farmiga and Garcia, Nicholas Braun shines in his own right as campus tour leader Justin. Audiences of all ages will agree that there is a Justin at every college and university across America. Right from the moment that Justin introduces himself to the tour group, holding out his name tag for everyone to see, saying, “I’m Justin,” audiences will be rolling. That’s pretty much how those college campus tours start. He’s just a dopey sort of character that entertains with everything he says. Whether that moment or his semi-dopey joke about campus violence or later when a random girl comes up behind him and slaps him, Braun is spot on in his role. Both Taissa Farmiga and Spencer Lofranco impress as Audrey and Conrad. But Braun, Garcia and the elder Farmiga are the real stars of this movie. Their acting–along with the writing and overall story crafted by Glenn German and Adam Rogers—collectively make At Middleton a story that is one of this year’s best independent movies.
At Middleton is available now on Blu-ray and DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered direct online from the Anchor Bay Entertainment website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?projectID=08b706e3-61ee-e211-a9b4-d4ae527c3b65. More information on this and other movies from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.anchorbayent.com/Entertainment.aspx, http://www.faceboo.com/AnchorBay, and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.