Letter grade: F
Jana Kramer stars as an aspiring country singer in “Approaching Midnight,” which opens in limited theaters on Aug. 30. But, wait, wasn’t she just in a movie where her character wanted to be a country singer? Why, yes, she was; it’s called “Heart of the Country,” and it was a direct-to-DVD release. Unlike that film, though, Kramer’s character is dead during the entirety of “Approaching Midnight.” That’s not a spoiler, so don’t freak out.
However, just like “Heart of the Country,” “Approaching Midnight” is filled with flashbacks – lots and lots of them. Nothing against Kramer, but if she wants to start a career in acting, having the same type of role in two consecutive films that consistently and abruptly take the viewer to a dramatic point in someone’s life is not a promising beginning.
“Approaching Midnight” begins with an ugly, mind-numbing flashback that shows Aspen (Kramer) and Staff Sergeant Wesley Kent (Sam Logan Khaleghi) having a conversation about life and the kind of music they like. She’s all about country; he’s anything but. They hit it off, date for a bit, and then he’s shipped overseas. The viewer sees him get injured, fall to the ground, and because it was such an unbelievably shocking scene, we see the film rewind and show it again. No, seriously, Khaleghi (also the director) treats the scene like it was something special – something that the viewer had to watch again. This isn’t footage of Joe Montana throwing “The Catch” to Dwight Clark in 1982, OK? It’s a movie, and there is no point in replaying a scene that wasn’t captivating in the first place.
Wesley is sent to Walter Reed Hospital, where he is treated for his injuries. After his discharge, he tries to reconnect with civilian life. But he’s haunted by two things: one is the death of Aspen, who was killed in a car accident while he was overseas, and the other is the death of his friend, AJ Culpepper (Brandon T. Jackson), who was killed in action. As he gets ready to bury his best friend, Wesley also tries to uncover all the mysterious details into Aspen’s death. The people to whom he speaks aren’t really saying anything, and there’s a possibility that Aspen’s dad – the mayor of the town – may be hiding something.
Some of the actors in “Approaching Midnight” are supposed to be cheerful to see our protagonist return home from the war, but they look more confused than anything else. And when it comes time for AJ’s funeral, the music sounds like it was stolen from the final moments of “Inception,” and each actor opens his or her umbrella right at the cue of rain and the camera getting closer to them. They don’t even try to make that scene look real.
The script is littered with so many nauseating drama and war cliches. Wesley tells AJ’s widow that it should have been him who died – not AJ. Wesley remembers a picture in the widow’s living room, and she reminds him that he took it. Where have we heard these before? Oh, right, they are in just about every other movie where someone loses his best friend.
People are upset over that Wesley didn’t make Aspen’s funeral, when, in fact, no one bothered to tell him about it until after he returned home. And it’s really hard to figure out that Aspen is Wesley’s girlfriend and not his wife. Once it’s finally revealed that the two weren’t married, it becomes more clear as to why the military didn’t send Wesley home for the funeral. And in this day and age of Facebook and Twitter, no one bothered to contact him to tell him the tragic news? It’s time for him to unfriend and unfollow a lot of people.
Whenever Khaleghi goes to a flashback, which happens about every 10 minutes, the entire screen is covered with layers of unnecessary visuals – whether it’s a blurry vision, putting the scene in sepia tone, or putting one scene on top of another. The opening and closing credits are wholly inappropriate – coming across the screen like the viewer is getting ready to watch, and just watched, some military action movie with Chuck Norris and Dolph Lundgren. Maybe that was the film’s original concept. Who knows? Better yet, who cares?