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Originally published Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 3:04 PM

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‘At Middleton’: Gonzaga, WSU star in campus-tour romance

A 1.5-star movie review of “At Middleton,” set at a college campus played by Gonzaga University and Washington State University. The romantic comedy stars Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga as parents who meet on a campus tour.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 1.5 stars

‘At Middleton,’ with Andy Garcia, Vera Farmiga, Taissa Farmiga, Spencer Lofranco, Nicholas Braun, Tom Skerritt, Peter Riegert. Directed by Adam Rodgers, from a screenplay by Rodgers and Glenn German. 100 minutes. Rated R for drug use and brief sexuality. Sundance Cinemas.

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In the movies, romance generally happens between two very specific kinds of people: one who is uptight (generally expressed by buttoned-up clothing, tidy hair, obsession with rule-following) and one who is freewheeling (casual clothing, loose hair, general disregard for rules). By the end of the movie, the uptight one has loosened his bow tie, the freewheeling one has learned a serious truth, and the audience is wondering why we so rarely see screen romance between, say, two uptight people. (You see it in real life all the time, right?)

“At Middleton,” set at an idyllic college campus played by Spokane’s Gonzaga University and Pullman’s Washington State University, follows the formula: George (Andy Garcia) and his precisely knotted bow tie meet Edith (Vera Farmiga) and her attractively slapdash updo on a tour of Middleton, a school his son (Spencer Lofranco) and her daughter (Taissa Farmiga, Vera’s real-life younger sister) are considering attending. Soon, the grown-ups ditch the kids, drop in on a drama class, smoke pot in a dorm room with a couple of students, run through a fountain and fall in love. Actually I’m not quite sure about the last bit; fairly early in “At Middleton” I stopped believing it. (Right around that drama class, to be precise.) These were movie characters, behaving in scripted ways — not people we might care about.

Pity. A different film might have made better use of Farmiga’s breezy warmth and Garcia’s velvety charm. Here they’re stranded in a screenplay that seems more interested in its setting than with creating characters that breathe. That campus tour, George tells Edith early on, is “like a first date”; and indeed the fictional Middleton is appealing — more so, unfortunately, than its all-too-predictable visitors.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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