Review

‘Midnight Sun’ is So Contrived and Poorly Made that It’s Almost a Must-See

Midnight_Sun_2017 (1)What a delightful little trainwreck this film turned out to be…

“Midnight Sun” tells the story of a teenage girl (Bella Thorne) with xeroderma pigmentosum, a rare disease that essentially makes her allergic to sunlight. When she meets a neighbor she has had a crush on since childhood (Patrick Schwarzenegger) she tries to keep her secret from him in order to finally live like a normal kid. Rob Riggle and Quinn Shephard also star as Scott Speer directs.

This is the type of film that is fundamentally broken but yet is not quite a chore to sit through; quite the contrary, my friend and I had a blast roasting its many flaws throughout. From performances that seemingly received no direction to gaps in logic and continuity, there is so much wrong with this movie and yet I almost want to give it an ironic recommendation.

Bella Thorne has become kind of famous in recent years, mostly for posting risqué pics on social media and acting like most any 20 year old who is suddenly given money and influence. This film was shot in 2015 and sat on the shelf for a while, so when this was made I’m sure 17-year-old Bella shared a lot with her timid, quirky character. She is a pretty bland person and her performance here matches that, although there are a few moments of cute quips (her getting nervous and saying “son of aaaa pregnant cow” caught me off guard; I laughed).

Patrick Schwarzenegger (offspring of you-can-guess-who) is far from the worst son of a famous actor, with his charm and ability landing somewhere between the wit of Wyatt Russell and the cringe of Scott Eastwood. Sure, much like Thorne there is not much to his character besides “look attractive” but he has a winning smile and does have a sense of warmth about him.

Rob Riggle actually gets to flex some acting muscles as Thorne’s father, including one scene where he starts to sob at the idea of losing her. Quinn Shephard plays Thorne’s lifelong friend and was probably my favorite character, as she was the only one who felt like a real person.

Which is possibly my biggest problem with this film: it is written almost as if by a computer that has never heard actual humans interact. There are numerous eye-rolling or cringe-inducing bits of dialogue and attempts to be relatable to the Snapchatting millennials, like when Thorne tells the audience how her condition makes her sleep all day and stay up all night “which I hear is what teens do anyways”.

There are some baffling filmmaking choices here, too. On more than one occasion Riggle goes to the hospital in broad daylight and the doctor chews him up for not bringing his daughter to get a checkup herself ignoring the fact that, you know, she can’t leave the house when the sun is out. There are also some odd lighting choices, with characters seemingly being highlighted and have an awkward outline around them, similar what happens when a person is in front of a bad green screen.

The film takes place in Washington state in June/July but was filmed in the fall in Canada. So in every scene characters have jackets on and you can see their breath. It’s just things like this that are the sign of cheap filmmaking.

Look, I am not the target demo for “Midnight Sun.” I was in a theater with some of the teenage girls that this film was made for and I heard some sniffling as the end approached, so take that for what it’s worth. Speaking of that, I was overall satisfied with how things wrapped up; I won’t spoil anything (in case God-forbid you ever see this film) but I was terrified it was going to go one way but it ended up handling the climax maturely. Doesn’t save the rest of the film, but at least made me respect the filmmakers just a microscopic bit more.

“Midnight Sun” is far from a good/competent movie and it’s not even the best “better grab the tissues” film released in March (that probably goes to “I Can Only Imagine”). But I enjoyed watching it in the same way I like watching “The Room:” there is so much wrong with it and there are such questionable choices made throughout that if you have a friend or two then the roast session can produce a lot of laughs. But as an actual film goes…yeah, no, this thing is a manipulative and contrived dud.

Critic’s Grade: D

midnight-sun
Open Road Films

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