At Middleton – Film Review

 

If dropping your teenager off at college for the first time was a traumatic experience, then you should relate to Edith (Vera Farmiga) in the – kind of – romantic comedy, At Middleton.

On the other hand, maybe you’ll relate to George (Andy Garcia). Both parents are taking their teenagers for a tour of the fictitious Middleton College.  George’s son is not so enthusiastic, but George thinks it will be good for him.  In the car on the way to campus, George tries to get his son to wear a tie.  It makes a statement,” dad says.  Yeah?’ asks the boy.  That my dad still dresses me?”

Things are just as tense in Edith’s car with her daughter, but roles are reversed.  The daughter (Farmiga’s real life younger sister, Taissa Farmiga) can’t wait to get there, but mom is having a hard time with the whole college experience, and it hasn’t yet begun.  You missed the turning,” her daughter states as mom purposely takes the long route in an attempt to perhaps get lost on the way.  It doesn’t work.

Once at Middleton, parents and potential students take the prepared campus tour, and it’s here where the film really begins.  By an odd set of circumstances, both George and Edith, who have never before met, find themselves accidentally broken away from the rest of the crowd, so they take a private tour of their own.  It’s during the next two hours that both George and Edith will not only discover hidden secrets of Middleton College, but realities about themselves, their lives, their attitudes towards their teenagers, and how, despite their differences, they feel about each other.  Separated from the tour?” asks a student studying in the library as George and Edith pass by.  You’re better off on your own.”

The intelligent screenplay by Glenn German and Adam Rodgers contains a great deal of wit that makes listening to the mismatched couple talk and occasionally bicker fun. It’s as if both writers were inspired to a degree by Neil Simon; they use comedic zingers as a way of revealing something serious about the characters delivering them.

When Edith introduces herself to George for the first time, she laughs at the sound of her own name.  I know,” she says.  It’s gonna make a comeback.” 

George has a healthy view of what college will do for his son, even if Edith is less than keen.  Where did the last seventeen years go?” she asks.  Sleep-overs,” George replies, “Soccer games, slamming doors.”  At one point, Edith loses her temper when another parent on the tour wants to know about the Middleton experience.  Here’s all you need to know about the Middleton experience,” Edith angrily responds, fearing how her daughter will eventually shut her out.  It doesn’t include you.”

There’s a funny scene where both Edith and George sit on a bench watching students go by.  To pass the time they entertain themselves, and each other, by giving fake personalities to students out of ear-shot, but when George describes one young man as someone who wants to impress his father, marries the first girl he falls in love with and goes on to a successful but unfulfilling career, he is, of course, talking about himself.

The thing about the feelings of attraction that is obviously bubbling under the surface between the two adults is that, like a teenage summer romance while on vacation, it won’t survive outside of the cloistered environment of a college campus, but both characters are so likable and amusing to watch when they’re together – a true case of opposites attract – you spend the whole time hoping it will. 

The private tour is full of incident – they steal bikes to ride around campus; are chased by campus security, take part in a drama class – and it all works on a reasonably acceptable heightened level of reality until they meet up with a couple of students who offer them tokes on a bong.  It’s a funny scene watching the two parents act like teenagers while privately sharing weed and getting stoned with two other teenagers, but if, as George insists, he has never in his life smoked pot before, the amount he appears to consume from the over-sized bong for the first time would have had him on his back for the rest of the day with the room spinning, yet miraculously he straightens up within a short time, ready to meet up with his son at the end of the two hour tour.  Either he’s lying about his past drug-taking experience or that was some seriously mild weed. 

By the end of the tour you will have fallen in love,” claims Justin (Nicholas Braun) the official student tour guide to the eager parents.  He’s referring, of course, to the college, but the film is referring to George and Edith. 

There’s an overall agreeable feel to At Middleton, buoyed by two likable characters delivering the occasional snappy and revealing line, but it won’t live with you at the fade out, perhaps because we sense that whatever relationship develops between George and Edith it won’t necessarily remain.  But it’s fun while the tour lasts, and as far as with whom you’ll relate the most when it comes to dropping your teenager off at college, I’m with George. “At least I won’t have to fumigate his room twice a year,” he says.

 MPAA Rating:  R      Length:  100 Minutes     Overall Rating:  7 (out of 10)

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