Monica Barbaro has what it takes to be a star. She's talented, she's got charisma, and there's something inherently likeable about her. The actress, who is probably best known for playing “Phoenix” in Top Gun: Maverick, is thoroughly charming in the new romantic comedy At Midnight. Unfortunately, she cannot entirely prop up a screenplay that is flatly written and riddled with clichés. If nothing else, the movie will hopefully inspire some producer or director to give her a better rom-com script someday.
In Jonah Feingold's film, Barbaro plays Sophie Wilder, a movie star in a much-publicized relationship with fellow actor/co-star Adam Clark (Anders Holm). Aside from being a narcissist who intentionally overshadows her, he's also a philanderer. This causes friction on the set of their superhero sequel when she catches him cheating with a crew member in his trailer. The production moves to Mexico, and everyone notices that the tension between the couple is impacting their chemistry onscreen.
Enter Alejandro (Diego Boneta), the ambitious junior manager at the hotel cast and crew are put up in. He has a requisite “meet cute” with Sophie during which he walks into her room and accidentally sees her naked. After the initial awkwardness of that encounter dies down, she asks him to show her a few of the hot spots in the area. To avoid causing a scandal or having Adam find out, they meet, as the title suggests, at midnight. Feelings develop, as do the complications of being a normal person dating a celebrity.
The best thing about At Midnight is the pairing of Barbaro and Boneta. They're appealing together, working up a nice, easygoing vibe. You can sense a warmth between them that's very pleasing to watch. Everything around them, however, is inane. The supporting characters are stereotypes, and the actors play them stereotypically. Anders, for example, goes so far overboard with the egotistical Adam that he doesn't seem like a real person. Ditto for Whitney Cummings as Sophie's harried, type-A personality agent.
Plot and dialogue are equally poor. The film's screenplay feels like it was written by an AI program that analyzed a couple dozen romantic-comedies. You can see every single beat of the story coming from a mile away. As for the jokes, they're simply not funny. Feingold mistakes referencing Avril Lavigne's never-made Sk8er Boi movie and Florence Pugh cooking videos on Instagram for actual wit. The best rom-coms have dialogue that flows, that informs us of who the characters are, not just on the surface but underneath. Here, people talk, yet what they say is just words strung together, with no genuine meaning.
The low quality of At Midnight is particularly frustrating because the leads have a spark. I watched the movie, continually wishing that it would abruptly click into something worthy of them. It never does. Romantic-comedies don't get lazier or more uninspired than this one.
out of four
At Midnight is rated R for some language. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.