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'At Middleton' Looks at Unexpected Love

28 Mar, 2014 By: Chris Tribbey

LOS ANGELES — At Middleton is among the more simple projects Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, The Godfather Part III) has taken on: No rehearsals, no table reads, little in the way of financing, and just 20 days to get the romantic comedy done.

And he loves the end result.

“It’s a beautifully constructed piece of material, and I was very taken by it when they came to me,” said Garcia, who (besides leading the cast with Vera Farmiga) also came on as producer, bringing with him director of photography Emmanuel Kadosh (The Lost City), and composer and jazz legend Arturo Sandoval. “Everyone was there because they wanted to be there, and that’s the most important thing.”

The film — out on disc April 1 from Anchor Bay Entertainment — sees two middle-aged strangers (Garcia and Farmiga) find each other while taking their college-bound kids on a campus tour. Unable to connect with their kids, they connect with each other, playing hooky from the actual tour. And slowly they discover they might actually be meant for each other.

Adam Rodgers, director and co-writer of At Middleton, based the script on his own experience years ago: while attending a campus tour with his father, he ditched the tour and bonded with another prospective student. For the film he asked a “what if” question: What if it was the parents who made a connection?

The script he co-wrote worked: besides Academy Award nominees Garcia and Farmiga, the project also attracted Farmiga’s younger sister Taissa Farmiga (“American Horror Story”), Spencer Lofranco (Jamesy Boy), Peter Riegert (Animal House, “Dads”) and Tom Skerritt (Alien, Top Gun). Yet with approximately $2.5 million to work with, there were challenges.

“You’re making a movie about two people who are meeting each other, getting to know each other, you want to be spontaneous,” Rodgers said. “There’s nothing like a 20-day shoot to create spontaneity. We were running and gunning the whole time.”

“The challenge is really always in financing it, not so much in the execution,” Garcia added. “Getting to the starting line is the most difficult thing in a film. If you assemble the right group of people, and have a script that’s manageable, you get through it. In a movie like this, because of the nature of what it was — taking place in one day, no special effects, the majority of it shot with available light — that keeps things moving quickly, so you can concentrate on the work.”

It’s the ending of At Middleton that may resonate with audiences: how do two people, who think all their major life decisions are already behind them, confront something so unexpected? Abandon everything they’ve already established in their lives or go the safe route?

“It’s one of those things [where], by chance, these parents find each other, find their true soul mates and discover an extraordinary chemistry,” Garcia said. “They get to a point where they declare themselves, their real interests, and love for one another. They don’t want this day to end, but they have to come to a very important decision. I think that’s the beauty about the structure of the film, why there’s a real resonance to [how it ends].”

No matter how viewers feel about how At Middleton closes — and how it leaves viewers feeling —co-writer Glenn German stresses that it couldn’t have ended any other way.

“We talked about it, and we went with [the ending] because we thought it was real,” he said. “If 10 is as happy as you can be, and one is despair, these people have been at five and a half for the last 18 years.”

For the bonus features of the DVD and Blu-ray Disc, Anchor Bay includes a commentary with Rodgers, German and Garcia; outtakes; and “There Was a Day,” a song Garcia wrote and performed, based on the film, with the help of Sandoval.

“We’re putting it on there for kicks and laughs, as they say,” Garcia said.

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