Middleton is a silly movie which feels like it slightly suffers from the unofficial 90 minute minimum requirement for movies.
Being someone fond of Vera Farmiga’s work on Bates Motel and being a fan of Taissa Farmiga on American Horror Story and The Bling Ring, I was drawn to the film. So, despite a trailer that didn’t look all that appealing, I decided to see this movie. Below, we find out if that ended up being a good idea.
To begin, the Farmiga sisters play mother and daughter, which is comical to me. Realize though, there is an 18+ year age difference and it strangely works well. Vera plays Edith who is a liberal, almost bohemian, and yet holds some of the neurotic nature of Norma Bates, which I guess maybe her Vera’s signature? Taissa, on the other hand, has a slightly intense character, named Audrey, which has some of Edith’s traits, but possibly also her unseen father. Alongside them are George (played by Andy Garcia) and his son Conrad (played by Spencer Lofranco). Both characters play opposite to their similarly aged counterparts with George being straitlaced, conservative and a bit fearful of life, while Conrad is far more laid back and charming than Taissa’s Audrey. In a way, Conrad seems like he could be Edith’s son and Audrey seems like she should be George’s daughter.
That dynamic isn’t played up in the movie, but the whole idea of opposites attract is. However, rather than it be a story about two families on a college tour which has the kids fall in love, it is the parents. Edith and George seems to be in unhappy relationships with their spouses, add on their kids leaving, and you realize that perhaps the one thing keeping them in their marriage is leaving and perhaps they are realizing that with the kid gone, they are stuck with this person who may no longer love them or who they may no longer love. But, it doesn’t get that deep until about mid-film. Before that, Edith’s character is an embarrassment, but not in a too over the top fashion, and George is just a bore. As things go on though, Edith and George pretty much steal the movie with them leaving their kids behind and having their own tour of Middleton. This leads to confessions, romance and the kids being left to their own devices which more so puts them in the shadows of Edith and George’s story than allowing them to hold their own.
Now, one thing I must say is that this film is pleasantly silly. To explain my perception of pleasantly silly, take note of how Ellen Degeneres does comedy. It isn’t offensive, but can be a tad bit mean spirited. This mostly comes from George and Edith, but others take part occasionally as well. Another thing worth noting is that the first 45 minutes of the movie are pretty much the best part of the film. It feels like it had a smooth progression from a silly little film to getting to deeper matters that Edith and George were having which explained why their characters were the way they were.
But, while the film did well in handling George and Edith, it dropped the ball on Conrad and Audrey. The first half of the movie, pretty much, is dedicated to the parents and then the kids begin to get a stronger focus in the second half. The issue is, in comparison to their parents, only Conrad is really likable. Taissa, on the other hand, gets a little too over dramatic, and admittedly Vera has one scene in which she seems to need to be reign in a little bit as well, but Taissa’s Audrey has a bad mix of snarkiness, Edith’s Type A personality traits, but lacks the charm which keeps her from becoming an annoyance. So, if anything, it maybe more so the character than Taissa’s acting, but I’m sort of iffy on giving her a pass. Also, after the first half, George and Edith begin to falter, character-wise, as you realize that her flirting and him following her around, is developing into something. Now, if they were both single that would be fine, but with them both mentioning spouses, it leads you to believe that the tour became, for them, an escape from the issues and responsibilities of adulthood. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I felt a bit disappointed since they had a bond because of their kids and marital troubles, so I didn’t understand why they needed to fall for one another. It really made it seem, like in a lot of films, that men and women can’t just be friends, but must explore and try other possibilities, even if briefly.
Overall: Rental or TV
Truth be told, no one should expect an award for their performance in the movie, but at the same time it isn’t like this film feels like something to keep your name out there or will become something anyone involved will be mocked for. It is just an average movie that wants to entertain you with a decent story. Vera, I feel, with her flair for dramatics and the silliness of her character, leads us through this movie and does so well. Andy plays a good opposite to her and really, if you take the kids out of the movie and take away one scene of them, Edith and George smoking weed together, you got a really good film about parents dealing with their kids growing up. But, with Tasissa’s and Spencer’s character getting more screen time, which seems weakly written in comparison, it does bring the film down a bit to the point where you sort of wish after the 50 minute mark they cut everything up until the fun for Edith and George has to end for they have to go back to their children and their lives. Still, overall it is worth watching despite my criticisms.