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With Jim Sabatini

At Middleton

At Middleton
Andy Garcia, Vera Farmiga, Spencer Lofranco, Tom Skerritt and Peter Riegert

Rated: R for drug use and brief sexuality.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: January 31, 2014 Released by: Anchor Bay Films

This new bittersweet and witty romantic yarn directed and co-written by Adam Rodgers manages to smooth over its hackneyed silliness to render waywardness and plot droopiness affecting from a brief encounter.

At Middleton stars Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga as both are in fine peppy and perceptive form; their best roles arguably since City Island and Up In The Air, respectively, as bow-tie wearing cardiologist George and brassy furniture store proprietor Edith.

The setting is the titular fictional university (actually filmed in Washington's Gonzaga University) where the uptight George whisks his uncertain son Conrad (Spencer Lofranco) to orientation. They meet  Edith at the parking lot when George back in a space with her tetchy daughter Audrey (Farmiga's much younger sister, Taissa, of the small-screen series American Horror Story: Coven).

What has its contrivances from George and Edith taking their own campus tour works off amusingly enough from their individual marital glumness including a little ad-lib for a theater class and 'bonging' with some students.

Rodgers' sensitivity to the material is reflected in the on-screen rapport between Garcia and Farmiga that combines the joy of detection with a wistfulness that may have a metaphoric symbiosis with the kind of thoughtfulness an ill-fated Labor Day tried to elucidate. It's reflected, for example, during a park scene as well as a soulful duet of the memorable 'Chopsticks' while tickling the ivories.

Of course Conrad and Audrey will find out things they like and dislike while their same sense of humor parents get their limited wish fulfillment and gratification. Audrey's meaning to study with a famous linguistics professor (Tom Skerritt of Whiteout) and Conrad's brush with the campus disc jockey (Peter Riegert of We Bought A Zoo) carries along a kind of merger or self-realization.   It sublimates a visually polished, if unspectacular or indelible that examines matters of the heart with unsentimental integrity where personal and mutual appreciation overcomes theatrical bombast.

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