Midnight Sun (2018) Review
A SOLID AND SINCERE
“PAINT-BY-NUMBERS” TEEN DRAMA
Teen movies have become a dime a dozen in the Hollywood industry of filmmaking. While it’s most a subgenre of sorts (could be various film genres), teen movies have been around for some time, with some fan favorites being produced back in 80s like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off just to name a few. Push more into the later 2000s era, Hollywood has started to cater to the more “millennial” generation, producing feature films that appeal to the current age of teenagers. Movies like Easy A, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Spectacular Now, The Edge of Seventeen, The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, and many others have become increasingly steadfast in the current releases for each subsequent year that follows. Even so, some more “fantastical” teen movies have come forth and held high levels of popularity with moviegoers, which are mostly due to them being bestselling “book-to-screen adaptations” as well as the current “trend” amongst the millennial generation. This includes popular series like the Twilight Saga, the Maze Runner trilogy, and the Hunger Games saga. Even in 2018, Hollywood has already churned out several teen drama feature films, including Everyday, Everything, Everything, and Love, Simon. Now, Globe Road Entertainment and director Scott Speer presents the latest teen drama motion picture with the movie Midnight Sun. Is this latest cinematic entry in the teen subgenre worth a glance or is it just another “run-of-the-mill” melodrama syrup?
Katie Price (Bella Thorne) has literally lived her life in the shadows. Born with a rare skin disorder known as “xeroderma pigmentosum” (or XP for short), Katie essentially is restricted to not having direct exposure to sunlight on her skin. If she does come in contact with natural sunlight on her skin, it could fatal damage her body, leaving her stricken with skin cancer and succumb to death. To protect her, Katie lives most of her life inside the house (except at night when she can go out), guarded by protective UV windows and her loving father Jack Price (Robb Riggle), who lives to give his daughter the best life he can offer her. As much as she loves her dad, Katie dreams of leaving the house, playing her music for the world, and secretively hoping to experience life as it is for everyone else. From her bedroom window, she has spent years watching a boy skate by her house, becoming a central part of her fantasy world of one day meeting him. One night, leaving the house after “graduating” her homeschool high school, she bumps into the boy, whose name is Charlie Reed (Patrick Schwarzenegger), a sensitive jock who is completely taken with Katie’s music and personality. The two instantly hit it off and fall genuinely in love with one another, sharing several dates during the night hours. However, Kate fears telling Charlie the truth about her condition will break off their budding romance even as it becomes clear that nothing could tear them apart.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Yes, I’ll admit…. I do like some teen dramas movie out there (both old and new ones). Growing up in the 90s, I saw plenty of 90s teen based driven movies, especially the ones towards the late 90s / early 00s era, including American Pie, She’s All That, 10 Things I Hate About You, A Walk to Remember, and several other ones. Of course, I also liked a lot of the teen movies from the 80s, but (to be honest) I actually didn’t see those ones until later (when I became more interested in watching movies). As for the new “millennial” movies, I do like to have them as well, but sometimes they can be a bit “hit or miss” to me. Of course, like I said above, some teen film endeavors have essentially worked (i.e. The Twilight saga, the Hunger Games saga, and standalone features like The Fault in Our Stars. In truth, teen movies can be difficult thing to pull off as sometimes they can be too “syrupy” in teen drama or too “unrealistic”. Of course, these movies are usually gear towards teenagers (a demographic between ages 13 to 18 roughly) and they can be (mostly the romance drama comedies ones) a bit too predictable and formulaic with plenty of well-trodden paths to follow from start to finish.
Naturally, this comes back around to me talking about Midnight Sun, which is based off of a 2006 Japanese film of the same name and the latest teen drama romance feature. To be fair, I actually didn’t know that Midnight Sun was based off another movie as I thought it was more in line being based off a teen fiction book (i.e. page to screen endeavor), which has become more prominent in recent Hollywood movie productions. Suffice to say, I actually didn’t actually see the original 2006 film, but it would be interesting to see the movie one day (to do a comparison between that one and this 2018 versions). As for 2018’s Midnight Sun, I remember seeing the film’s trailers several times when I went for my weekly movie outings at my local theater. At first glance, I thought it looked okay…. you know… “just another teen drama” I said to myself. The film’s trailer did catch some of my attention and I was gonna see the movie (in theaters) during its theatrical release (just to even simply review the movie for my blog…at the very least), but I sort of overlooked the movie, choosing other movies to watch (and review) and (within time) Midnight Sun got pushed out of theaters. To be fair, I didn’t hear much “buzz” about this movie (neither good or bad), so I was curious to see what I thought of Midnight Sun. Thus, I decided (during one lazy afternoon) to rent the movie (via iTunes) to see the movie (and review). So, what did I think of it? Midnight Sun, despite being formulaic throughout its narrative, is actually a solid addition to the recent teen melodramas out there. The film doesn’t really break the mold, but it does rise similar features with a bit more genuine heart that most.
Midnight Sun is directed by Scott Speer, whose previous directorial works includes other several music videos (i.e. Jason Derulo, Ashley Tishdale, David Archuleta, etc.) as well as the feature film Step Up Revolution. Given his background with more music video direction and more “flashy set-pieces and sequences with his Step Up endeavors (he was also a for Step Up All In as well), Speer takes a bit more serious approach (albeit in teen romance drama) when approaching Midnight Sun. While the original 2006 Midnight Sun’s screenplay was done by Kenji Bando, this 2018 version’s screenplay is penned by Eric Kristen, updating the story and allowing it to speak to a more modern audience viewers, especially the teenage / young adult crowd. Of course, with the original 2006 film acting as a blueprint, Speer has the groundwork already laid out and adds those melodrama angst and nuances that have grown accustomed with teen romance dramas of late. As a whole, the film is feels genuine. Yes, the movie does have the familiarity that many will find (a problem that the movie has….more on that below), but there’s a sense of raw emotion and gentleness that plays throughout the feature, making Midnight Sun rise above other similar teen endeavors. Given the subject matter of the movie, the film also discusses the idea of being born with rare / fatal disease and the precautions / limits a person might have with said disease. This, of course, can be extrapolated to real life (i.e. people with cancer and / or born with some type of disease or body deficiency) and challenges that they must overcome, including daily routines that many might take for granted. To be sure, it’s a difficult thing to have (regardless of age, gender, ethnicity) as Speer and Kristen make sure to strike a chord of emotion that resonates with the hope and loss of Katie’s condition. Plus, at the core of the movie (and I know this might sound cheesy), Midnight Sun talks about a budding romance and the love that overcomes limitations. You know…. finding hope of light in the gloom of darkness type vibe. Again, this scenario has been played out before, but Speer finds a way to make work honestly and wholeheartedly within the film. Overall, Speer’s attention to the keeping things relatively grounded (and from the heart) and focuses on its characters makes Midnight Sun enjoyable and warming addition to the subgenre of teen romance dramas.
On a presentation level, Midnight Sun is actually a well-crafted film, providing enough love and care on its technical merits styles of filmmaking to make the feature (cinematically speaking) come alive. The backdrop setting for the movie is also quite interesting as Midnight Sun’s story unfolds within a sleepy suburb town in Washington state. Thus, the movie’s art direction by Laurel Bergman and production designs by Eric Fraser have to thank for that…. kind of adding that “story book” feeling within this teen drama. The film’s cinematography, which was done by Karsten Gopinath, is also pretty good with some creative usage of camera angles against the backdrop off sunlight or moon-lit sky. It won’t be nominated for any awards or anything, but it still lends some “cinematic quality” to the film’s proceedings. Additionally, while the film’s musical score, which was composed by Ethan Dorr, Megan Dorr, and Nate Walcott, is pretty good (adding musical layers of emotion within the movie, Midnight Sun also has a good selections of musical pop songs that are scattered throughout the movie. In the end, even if you don’t particularly care for the feature, Midnight Sun (on a technical level) is crafted very well.
Midnight Sun does falter in some categories that do hold the movie back from being something cinematically great. Perhaps the most notable one is the fact how predictable the ebbs and flows throughout its runtime. Being gear towards teens as its targeted demographic, the movie is relatively rooted in the melodrama that usually accompanies teen flicks. This, of course, means the feature has the air about that’s steeped in teenager angst and love story dynamics, which means that it won’t come to anyone surprise as to what will happen throughout the course of the movie (be triumph or heartbreak). Basically, Midnight Sun, despite how much its well-crafted, is still teen romance story and follows the formula path to a “T”, traversing through an overtly familiar path of scenarios and situations. Alas, that’s the problem with the movie as Kristen’s screenplay doesn’t really add much twists or surprise twists within the narrative being told, which (in turn) makes Midnight Sun formulaic and easy to decipher what will happen before the future events will happen.
Additionally, the movie can also draw parallelisms to other teen romance drama of where one out of the two star-crossed lovers is sick / disabled with some form of illness. Films like Everything, Everything, The Space Between Us, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, and even (to some degree) The Fault in Our Stars are the ones that I’m talking about. Thus, Midnight Sun joins that roster and (to me at least) it all sort of starts to blend together. Its quite easy to interchange characters and scenarios within these movies (including Midnight Sun) and really seems a bit a contrive and a bit “by the book”, with the storylines either boiling down to one or two endings (you can sort of guess what the outcome will be within those two endings if you’ve seeing enough teen movies). It’s not completely disappointing as the movie is able to stand on its own merits (to a certain degree) and does follow a sweet and tender story for its viewers to engage in, but it’s also hard not to draw comparison to what’s come before (storytelling-wise) and how “by the numbers” Speer and Kristen work within the parameters of expectations. Thus, the whole gist of this is simply this…. Midnight Sun is emotionally sincere in its story, but is fairly predictable and hardly colors outside the pre-set lines for a teen drama romance endeavor.
What actually helps elevate the Midnight Sun through those particular problems is the cast selected to be these characters. Granted, I really don’t expect at type of Oscar-worthy performances during the film, but actors and actresses selected for Midnight Sun’s roles are pretty good. At the head of the pack and playing the central main protagonist role of Katie Price is actress Bella Thorne. Known for her roles in Shake It Up, Famous in Love, and Blended, Thorne handles herself well in the role, making Katie Price vulnerable (due to her rare illness), but also fun, charming, and sincere as she interacts with various characters (i.e. her dad, her bf, and her love interest). Thorne’s up to the task and, since the movie focuses on her, gives a good performance as Katie. Plus, since Thorne can sing in real life, the notion of having her character of Katie Price sing in the movie is a good thing as some of the songs, including “Walk with Me”. Co-starring beside Thorne is actor Patrick Schwarzenegger (yes, I looked it up and he is in fact the son of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shiver), who plays the character of Charlie Reed. Schwarzenegger, known for his roles in The Long Road Home, Stuck in Love, and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, handles himself well in the role as the sensitive / kind-hearted jock architype, who falls in love with the protagonist character (i.e. Katie Price). He is a bit “wooden” a few times, but at least he doesn’t really “overact”, which is a good thing that he doesn’t. Still, at the end of the day, Schwarzenegger’s Charlie Reed works fine within Midnight Sun and both him and Bella Thorne share some believable on-screen chemistry with each other. Thus, making the romance between Katie and Charlie real.
In more secondary roles, actor Rob Riggle and actress Quinn Shephard fill in the characters around Katie as her loving father Jack Price and her best friend Morgan. Riggle, known for his roles in 21 Jump Street, The Hangover, and 12 Strong, is surprisingly good and heartfelt genuine in his role as Jack. While he’s always been displayed in more conventional comedy roles, his role in Midnight Sun is actually the most theatrically dramatic one I’ve seeing him in. Of course, the role of being a protective and loving parent (especially in a teen movie) isn’t relatively new, but Riggle is fine the role, with several particular moments to showcase his more gravitas acting talents, which is really quite interesting to see. Thus (to me), Riggle’s Jack is probably the most memorable character in Midnight Sun. Likewise, Shephard, known for her roles in Blame, Hostages, and Windsor, puts her own spin on the classic “BFf” role found in a teen movie. As Morgan, Shephard provides a lot of the film’s more humorous bits as well as being a comforting friend towards Katie. Again, it’s nothing new or original, but Morgan handles herself well in the movie, which (at the end of the day) is a good thing.
Given the fact that the movie focused a lot on its primary characters, the rest of Midnight Sun’s cast is more in minor supporting roles. This includes actress Suleka Matthew (Claws and Hawthorne) as Katie’s doctor Dr. Paula Fleming, actor Nicholas Coombe (Imaginary Mary and Cinema Town) as fellow teenager Garver, actor Alex Pangburn (The 100 and Lucifer) as fellow teenager Wes, actress Tiera Skovbye (Supernatural and Riverdale) as fellow teenager Zoe Carmichael, and actor Ken Tremblett (One Crazy Cruise and Six) and actress Jenn Griffin (The Cannon and Da Vinci’s Inquest) as Charlie’s parents Mark and Barb Reed. I’m not saying these performances are good or bad anything, but these roles are mostly “filler” by ways and means of playing a very small part in the movie with two or three sequences to movie the plot along (to some degree) or just for continuity in several scenes.
Born with a rare disease, young adult teenager Katie Price finds love within another, foreseeing trouble as their relationship blooms in the film Midnight Sun. Director Scott Speer latest movie is a teen movie endeavor that speaks of finding love (no matter the reason or cost) and to live life as you want to live it. While the movie doesn’t reinvent the “teen movie” wheel and does follow a very predictable (and slightly manipulative) path from onset to conclusion, the film does carry a certain type of sincerity within its story, a generally favorable cast of characters, and an overall well-crafted feature from start to finish Personally, I thought this movie was pretty good. Yes, it wasn’t exactly new or original (in the ways of storytelling teen melodrama), but was a wholesome tale of love and loss that suitably fits and speaks to the viewers who are attracted to a feature like this. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is a favorable “rental” as the movie could be seeing at least one time by both teen and non-teen movie lovers. In the end, while the movie isn’t the quintessential teen movie out there (as Hollywood will continue to churn out more motion pictures for this subgenre), Midnight Sun is still a solid and sincere film that will please fans of its demographic target.
Also, a personal side note, Midnight Sun is my 350th movie review since I’ve started blogging (some I’ll be releasing on here from my old blog). A personal milestone for me and for Jason’s Movie Blog. Anyways…thank you to my readers, followers, and fellow bloggers. I couldn’t have done it without you!!!
3.7 Out of 5 (Rent It)
Released On: March 23rd, 2018
Reviewed On: July 15th, 2018
Midnight Sun is 91 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for some teen partying and sensuality