Midnight Sun (2018) Movie Review

By: Jenna Zine (Six Pack) –

A teen trapped at home by a deadly disease learns how to live a full life with the help of her hunky boyfriend, spirited bestie, and overprotective father.

[Review contains spoilers.]

A Toast

Katie Price (Bella Thorne) is your typical teenage girl – she longs for her crush from afar, giggles with her best gal pal, spends time pretending she’s Taylor Swift, and gently rebels against her father. The big twist is that Katie is an ordinary person struck with the extraordinarily rare disease of Xeroderma Pigmentosum (referred to as XP – essentially an allergy to the sun; a real condition that affects one out of 0.004% of the population). Having XP basically means Katie lives a vampire-esque existence, sleeping during the day and living life at night. Her loving father, Jack (Rob Riggle), does his best to make his daughter’s life fun within the confines of their comfy home (equipped with special UV windows), as does Katie’s stalwart best friend, Morgan (Quinn Shephard). Katie’s world starts to open up when the guy she’s been crushing on from afar since she was 6-years old (Patrick Schwarzenegger, son of Arnold, as Charlie) stumbles across her one evening busking at the local train station and love blooms. Will Katie and Charlie triumph over the sun? Or will the great orb in the sky reduce Katie to a pile of sexy, redheaded ash? Furthermore, will you care? My guess is no…

Whoops – wrong Bella and wrong vampire. 

Beer Two

Oh, hello plot holes! How are you? Yes, Katie has XP – believe me, you won’t be allowed to forget it for a minute – but would she really have never met her lifelong crush before that fateful evening at the town’s quaint, centrally located train station? She’s only housebound during daylight hours, not locked in a castle. Charlie has been Katie’s entertainment for more than a decade as she’s longingly watched him skate down her street from the specially-tinted windows in her attic bedroom. But the film plays it like she’s never, ever left the house. She’s so awkward when she finally meets Charlie, she acts like she’s never spoken to another human (aside from her dad) before. Hard to believe, when she’s shown spending loads of time with her hip, sassy friend Quinn.

And I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!

Furthermore, the problem is Katie herself. XP is a disease that does nasty things to one’s skin, but Katie is luminous teenage perfection, resplendent with a dewy glow. Bonus is her thick mane of red hair and enviable figure. (When she finally meets Charlie, we’re supposed to believe he might not be interested in her because – gasp – she has her hair pulled back into a greasy ponytail. Oh, the indignity!) In short, she’s gorgeous. A fact we’re awkwardly reminded of when her own father tells her she’s “hot, like her mom.” The sun may burn Katie’s skin, but I think that sentence just scorched my ears. Why, god, why?!

Beer Three

And more on Katie. The casting of Katie, specifically. The proud feminist in me hates myself for what I’m about to say, but… I just don’t like Bella Thorne. This is something I struggle with, as women should in no way have to be perfect people-pleasers in real life in order to play romantic heroines. Yet that is what we, as a society (and apparently myself), demand of our leading ladies. For example, everyone wants to be friends with Sandra Bullock – you root for her onscreen as much as off. I am invested in whatever thematic journey she presents because she seems like an awesome person. Of course I don’t really know her, but she’s made it her business for us to perceive her as warm and engaging; thusly her characters are imbued with the same qualities.

Meanwhile, Katherine Heigl, once assumed the heir apparent to the rom-com throne after her fantastic turn in 27 Dresses, has watched her career all but dissipate after being labeled “difficult.” (And not without reason, but that’s a discussion for another day.) It’s even been theorized that the queen herself, Reese Witherspoon, started acting out publicly when she wanted to transition from Legally Blonde-type roles to grittier, more serious fare. Is that the plan? Bella is certainly not winning any popularity contests – heck, even Rob Lowe clapped back at her for an insensitive social media gaffe.

Bella Thorne and Scott Disick like to spend time together in the shade room… 

That said, I don’t take my dislike of Bella lightly. She’s just an actress doing her job – and doing it fairly decently – so who cares what she does in her off time? Unfortunately, her real life antics colored my perception of the character. The portions of the film where she plays the awkward nerd to Charlie’s celebrated jock made it seem like she was mocking an actual nerd. To me she’s more believable as the mean girl. Or maybe that’s my role!

Beer Four

This plot isn’t for the lactose intolerant – as you might’ve guessed, it’s cheesy AF. Katie is Cinderella without the cruel stepsisters or back-breaking chores. She’s hid away from Charlie (the prince) until a chance meeting finally brings them face to face. Only instead of a glass slipper, it’s Katie’s left behind journal as she scampers away that finally brings Charlie to her door. Katie’s got no game and most guys wouldn’t wait around for her to sort herself out – but this guy is no ordinary fellow! Handsome Charlie is a deep well of empathy and soon the two embark on a whirlwind courtship that develops into a deep love. Katie keeps Charlie in the dark (no pun intended, but damn – that works!) about her forced sun-aversion, only seeing him at night.

It’s only when Charlie keeps her out way, way past her curfew and the morning light touches her milky visage as she screams and cries does he get a hint that things might not all be well for his sweetheart.  The most ridiculous part of this particular portion of the movie is the improbability that Katie would be out that late, regardless of her severe sun sensitivity, given the scene where her father, Jack, and Charlie have a talk about her curfew. Charlie is eager to impress Jack and wants to stay in his good graces, so I was finding it hard to believe the first thing he’d do is intentionally keep Katie out until sunrise when he promised to bring her home at 1 AM. This is where my inner cynic meets my rule-following good girl. Man, I’m a ton of fun!

Sailing off into the sunset.

Of course, the best thing to come out of that splash of daylight hitting Katie’s silky skin is the fallout. Her dormant symptoms immediately kick in and you know it’s about to get bad when her hand randomly shakes for a brief second before she bravely carries on strumming the guitar! Fatal illnesses are so, like, totally pretty.

Beer Five

More plot holes:

  1. Katie and Charlie can only date at night, but every time we see Charlie driving his truck, the headlights are turned off. Either Charlie is wildly unsafe, or the director cared more about lighting the set than scene continuity and road safety.
  2. When Katie and Charlie are hit with adversity, she grabs him and says “We are not the couple that doesn’t try!” They’ve been dating for a few weeks, at best. I know they’re teens and everything is heightened, but that is drama in the Bahamas.
  3. Katie’s early demise is brought on in part by staying out too late with Charlie, kicking the XP into overdrive. When Charlie apologizes to Jack, he just shrugs and says, “It’s okay. It was going to happen anyway.” WTF? Forgiveness is great and all, but that’s just weird.
  4. There’s a scene when Charlie encourages Katie to busk in Seattle. She shyly sings a weak little ditty, and a large group of attractive teens immediately form adoringly around her. They stay for the entire song. I’ve been to Seattle. They are the home to Nirvana and Soundgarden. No one is going to give a fuck about a warbling waif.
  5. Charlie arranges for Katie to record a song in a swanky studio, bafflingly paid for with his “truck money.” Talented session musicians sit at the ready. Katie, who has never practiced or performed anywhere other than a sidewalk, cuts the song in one perfect take. The tune is later uploaded to YouTube, garners 200 million views in two weeks, and becomes a number one hit on the radio – one that Charlie happens to tune into on his ancient car stereo as he drives out of town. Odds on all of this are slimmer than being born with XP.

Kurt Cobain has got nothing on me!

Beer Six

The main problem in a film rife with challenges is ultimately a simple one: there is no emotional investment or resonance with the characters. When Katie dies we see Quinn shed one tear at the ice cream shop where she works after school before she carries on with her life. Her father is shown looking briefly remorseful as he stares at glamour shots of his hot daughter. Charlie is bummed, but he’s off to college, where Katie is destined to become the sensitive story he tells girls he wants to get into bed. Sure, it’s schlocky melodrama – but I still assumed I’d feel something when the main character expires. But this fare is so light it makes Nicholas Sparks look like Shakespeare. And that, my friends, is really saying something.

See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!

Verdict

Let’s be clear – Midnight Sun should’ve been released direct to Netflix where it could’ve culled its target audience from the comfort of their phones, with a few adults tuning in on the old-fashioned television for a guilty pleasure view. How this barely-there tearjerker made it to a wide release in theater chains remains a mystery.

Midnight Sun (2018) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time the disease of XP is brought up.

Take a Drink: every time Katie’s dad does something overprotective.

Take a Drink: every time Katie sings an “original” song.

Take a Drink: every time you think, “Man – Patrick Schwarzenegger sure does look like a Kennedy.” Because – oh, yeah – he’s totally part of the Kennedy clan! The hair gene game in that family is strong.

Take a Drink: every time the movie shills for M&Ms, who obviously purchased a prominent sponsorship.

Do a Shot: for the makeup artist, since Katie’s pale lipstick is the only way we know she’s getting sicker.

About Jenna Zine

Jenna Zine is a writer, unashamed Bachelor franchise live-tweeter (@JennaZine1) and recapper, lapsed drummer, and occasional standup comic. She's probably somewhere complaining about her bangs right now. Find more at www.jennazine.com

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