Monica Barbaro's Rom-Com Has Less Heart Than a Super Bowl Ad at Midnight

Monica Barbaro's Rom-Com Has Less Heart Than a Super Bowl Ad at Midnight ...

Well, with all plans that are so big, one inevitably falls back to earth.

Monica Barbaro, a breakout star for "At Midnight," an updated take on "Notting Hill," with a dash of "Forging Sarah Marshall" in the credits, is unlikely to be seen for 105 minutes on film.

Sophie Wilder, a rising actress, is the subject of a film directed by Barbaro, who has spanned five years and lives in Mexico. Together, she and her posse, including best friend Rachel (Catherine Cohen, doing her best Rachel Sennott impression) and publicist Chris (Casey Thomas Brown), work to change Sophie's career and reconcile her broken heart.

Alejandro (Diego Boneta) is well-known for chatting up hotel guests. Unprofessionally barges into Sophie's room as she prepares to enter the shower, and their class-transcending encounter cute is off to the races. It's too bad it sputters for the next...wait, all of that was within the first five minutes of the film?!

Yes, the main conflict between Sophie and Adam takes place within 120 seconds, including an actually funny cold open and Holm perfectly delivering the Method acting meta line, "I'm in character so this doesn't count," as he's shirtless except for his superhero mask when making out with a production assistant.

"At Midnight," says the narrator.

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The problem with "At Midnight" isn't the beautiful scenery or the casual believability of the sparks between Boneta and Barbaro; it's the quality of the production, mostly that there is no such thing. Episodes of "Bachelor in Paradise" have better cinematography than this Paramount+ feature, making the streamer appear incapable of adequately funding anything that isn't produced by Taylor Sheridan.

"I like that we don't know each other's names," she says while walking away like a cool girl. Alejandro is not the hot shot he carries himself as, but is rather beholden to his strict boss (Maya Zapata), who is unaware Alejandro is giving private tours of his bed sheets.

Sophie gets topless pep talks while envisioning herself in a superhero outfit in the mirror, and her friend Rachel reminds her that feminism is good and awake! Despite Sophie's difficulties, Rachel has the best relationship throughout the film — although it's clearly from Cohen's character, which comes across as depressed at times.

"At Midnight," according to the film.

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Cohen, who has had one-episode stints on "Broad City," "Difficult People," and "Search Party," has a surprising ability to carry the film more than Whitney Cummings' PR-focused character, who only appears from Los Angeles and has no screen time with any of the main actors.

Alejandro steps in to help Sophie with an audition tape, only Rachel's casual comment that Sophie shouldn't need a man to do anything that has a "gee, shucks, you're right" eyeroll and shrug from the characters.

The most heartbreaking part is that Sophie requires a man even though she is a well-known actress. Alejandro needs someone to encourage him to pursue his culinary talents rather than collecting towels for tourists. He spends half his time balancing perfectly-rolled terry cloths in a narrow corridor.

Sophie's professional career seems to have found solidarity post-split, with her "Super Society" female director encouraging her to change dialogue and blocking on the spot to be a stronger female lead, but she continues to pursue Alejandro after hours, leading to fun explorations of Mexico City and romantic sleepovers on the beach.

“I don’t need you to be ME!” Sophie screams at Adam during her climatic revelation; yet moments later she falls into the arms of Alejandro. We’ll never know who is Sophie, nor do we really care. Barbaro gives just enough charisma to demonstrate she is actually a rising star, but "At Midnight" eludes all of the possible stereotypes.

Sophie asks Alejandro in her last romantic moment from "Notting Hill." We understand, and Paramount+ has a long list of films, including "Notting Hill," now available on the platform!

"At Midnight," according to a local DJ.

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It's lazy. "At Midnight" reminds viewers that while it's cute at times and easy to digest, there isn't much else here. Is there need to be? Not always, but when there are better rom-coms out there, why waste the time? Barbaro and Boneta are better than this.

...and "this" is mostly the production quality. We need to talk about the editing and sound mixing for a minute. "At Midnight" appears to have been edited by Neil Breen, should he ever downgraded to iMovie.

Barbaro admitted to IndieWire's Kate Erbland that learning that she was cast in "Top Gun: Maverick" as something other than the "love interest" was a tear-filled moment for her family. It begs the question (or assumption) that "At Midnight" was planned prior to Barbaro's participation in the box office-busting "Top Gun" sequel. Fortunately Barbaro will have plenty more time to demonstrate her full acting chops in the future as it

It's still a shame that the references to everything from "America's Sweethearts" to "Forging Sarah Marshall" didn't strike out immediately with writer-director Jonah Feingold, who wrote the film with Maria Hinojos and Giovanni M. Porta as well as the wide array of cinema history to cover.

The post-modern "Notting Hill" monologue reference served more as an apology, or recognition even, of the lack of high-quality concept chemistry and production quality compared to a film that was released almost 25 years ago, almost the same age as its actors.

On Paramount+, "At Midnight" is now available for streaming.