There are certain movies that you want to like so much that it eventually gets a bit annoying when they repeatedly squander opportunities to be something special and instead settle for just being average. At Middleton has a nice cast, an intriguing idea, a beautiful setting and the chance to stand out from the crowd. Instead, it is a slightly above average romantic comedy which could have been so much better if only a little more care or imagination were expended.
The movie should be unique simply from its structure: it is a romantic comedy which takes place on a bucolic college campus, but it is not between two dreamy-eyed students or even love-starved professors. Instead it tells about the chance meeting of two unhappily married parents who are both taking their only child to tour a college campus where they quite likely will be going the next year, leaving the parents in an empty nest situation with a spouse for whom they long ago lost passion.
There entire experience can only last a few hours… or can it? How much can you learn about another person in a few hours? Is a sudden infatuation worth throwing away everything you have built up in your life leading up to this? For that matter, can you really make a snap assessment of a person to the point where you might even be able to try in a single day? Is this just an extreme reaction to all the other changes going on in life?
At Middleton is asking some hard, probing questions. Sadly, it only sometimes is able to answer them satisfactorily. It doesn’t even always seem to try.
The two parents are George (Andy Garcia), a rather repressed brain surgeon, and Edith (Vera Farmiga), a free-spirited owner of a children’s furniture shop. They meet cute (she pulls into a parking spot which he was planning to back into!) and immediately antagonize each other as they bring their kids to take a tour of the bucolic campus of (fictional) Middleton College.
They annoy each other so greatly upon their first meeting that the audience just knows that they will soon become fascinated with each other.