At Middleton Review
Sometimes, nothing beats a film experience that you weren't planning on having.
I have been graduated from undergraduate college for over a year now. I had to take an extra semester because it wasn't until the near-end of my Sophomore year that I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life. (Yes, I was one of those students, and I don't regret it.) Those four years went fast, faster than I could have imagined, faster than anybody around me could have imagined. In those quick years, I felt I grew a lot as a person and I am thankful for that. Picking a college for yourself is a task that I am not sure gets the respect it deserves, and "At Middleton" takes that idea and twists it a bit.
Edith (Vera Farmiga) takes her daughter Audrey (Taissa Farmiga, both Farmiga's girls are actually real-life sisters) to a college visit of Middleton, the same day that George (Andy Garcia) takes his son Conrad (Spencer Lofranco). Audrey really wants to work with a wonderful doctor of linguistics, and doesn't care about what her mother thinks. Edith wants to keep Audrey close as she thinks she'll lose Audrey forever once she goes to college. George, on the other hand, really wants Conrad to go to Middleton. George is the type of parent that has their child's life planned out for them, no matter how Conrad feels about. Conrad is still desperately trying to find himself and he's just not sure that Middleton is a fit for him.
When Edith and George meet during the college visit, they don't exactly get along. Their parenting ideals clash quite a bit, and when they are separated from the group, they are stuck with each other. This gives their children time to explore the college while Edith and George explore themselves spiritually. It quickly becomes apparent to the audience that although Edith and George's lives look good on paper, there is a yearning they both feel. For the first time in a long time, they both feel alive by hanging out with each other. While there are several funny moments and just as many tender moments, I couldn't get over how much this slightly-strange tale affected me.
Part of the reason I am so taken by this film is because of its cast. When Andy Garcia lets his heart shine in his performances, its hard to best him. He also worked as a producer on this film, and each time he's apart of the cast and the crew, he's nearly unstoppable. Maybe this is a calling a la Ben Affleck that he should start making movies. I have loved the talents of both the Farmiga girls, but they have never affected me on the emotional level that they do here. I could easily identify with each of their characters, and their talent was on magnificent display. This was also a brilliant showcase for Spencer Lofranco, an actor I have never heard of. One thing is for sure though, I want more from him. There were equally brilliant cameos by Tom Skerritt, Nicholas Braun and Peter Riegert that had me cracking up. Everybody came to work on this one and its emotionally-stricken acting.
Underneath it all, the film's message is a a sweet and simple one. Its never too late to find yourself. As the children discover whether or not Middleton is the right fit for them, their parents finally find something they have been looking forward to their whole lives. So, if you are one of those souls who thinks they didn't find themselves after four years of college, or many years at a job, or whatever, its never too late to find yourself. That's a wonderfully positive message that is painted brightly in this beautiful movie. "At Middleton" is small but it packs a punch that strikes your heart. I am honestly amazed by how affected by it I was, but that is truly the beauty of good cinema.
FINAL GRADE: B+