Brief synopsis: a couple of local radio host, who also happen to be long time best friends, get notoriety for their relationship advice on their morning show. A flippant conversation, on-air, about their trepidation when introducing prospective partners to their families has their boss suggesting they should introduce their partners to their families live on air.
A larger corporation is prepared to syndicate them countrywide if they do so. They agree to the task but a spanner is thrown in the works when both are dumped before New Year’s Eve. They decide to fake a relationship between the two of them to fulfil their dream of getting syndicated across the country.
Is it any good?: Midnight at the Magnolia is a sweet rom-com that works even though it is quite predictable. The two leads, Natalie Hall and Evan Williams are great. Their chemistry is excellent and the script is above average for a Netflix festive film. An enjoyable eighty-seven minutes.
Spoiler territory: Maggie Quinn (Natalie Hall) is smartly dressed, ready for work early in the morning. Jack Russo (Evan Williams) is shocked out of his slumber by his alarm clock. Maggie eats her breakfast and leaves for work, arriving comfortably early for the morning show she hosts with Jack, Windy City Wake-Up.
Their boss, Deb (Alison Brooks) asks her where Jack is. Maggie tells her he will be there. She is not worried. The show is about to go live. Deb counts Maggie in for the morning introduction, as Maggie speaks to Chicago, Jack rushes in and joins the show.
It is Boxing Day and Maggie and Jack’s radio banter denotes that the two are longtime friends. They get on to the subject of their prospective partners. Maggie asks Jack if he is bringing his latest girlfriend to meet his parents. Jack says he is not. He asks her if she is bringing Seb (Sean Williams). Maggie replies in the negative.
After the show, Deb tells them that not only was their talk of introducing their partners to their families a hit, it got them noticed by a bigger network who are thinking of taking them countrywide. Seb comes to meet Maggie for lunch. He tells her that he felt like they were making fun of him and Jack’s girlfriend, their closeness making him feel excluded.
Jack and Maggie’s fathers’ jointly own the Magnolia restaurant and jazz club. The two go to a family dinner and are warmly greeted by Jack’s father, Martin (Martin Gordin Shore) and Maggie’s dad, Steve (Steve Cumyn). Jack’s mum, Bev (Susan Hamann) comes and joins the party. Maggie’s sister Amanda (Victoria Maria) her husband, Matt (Matthew Stefiuk) and their son Cody (Dane O’Connor).
Jack and Maggie tell the family the news about their impending syndication, everybody is happy. At the dinner, Martin is reluctant to speak about the bar’s business much to Jack’s surprise. He asks him about it after dinner. He tells him that the bar is not as popular as it once was.
The next morning, after their show, Deb comes and tells them that the broadcaster wants to take them nationally with a show on New Year’s Eve. They also want them to introduce their prospective partners live on air. Both are initially reluctant but the thought of going national persuades them. Jack thinks that they should do it at the Magnolia to help boost sales for the venue.
They go and tell their fathers. Having told their fathers, they decide that they need to tell their partners. Maggie tries to get through to Seb, leaving him messages. He calls her back and breaks up with her. There is a knock at her door. It is Jack. His girlfriend broke up with him as well. Worried about the upcoming syndication opportunity, Jack suggests that they pretend to be together.
After some convincing, Maggie reluctantly agrees. To try and convince Deb, the two decide that they should be caught kissing. As they are kissing, Jack’s parents walk in and see them. After a bit of confusion, Jack’s parents surprise them both, ecstatic that they have got together. They find that all of the family is happy that the two of them are together, having believed that they should have always gotten together.
Alone in Jack’s apartment, the two recall when he sang a song and how captivated she had been by his performance. The next day, Deb tells them that they have been invited to a cocktail party by the Judd Crawford (Peter Michael Dillon), the boss of the syndication. She also tells them that their new union is going to be live-streamed.
Jack and Maggie go to the local coffee shop. Maggie sees Seb with another woman and is hurt at the thought that he has replaced her so quickly. Jack takes Maggie sleigh riding to cheer her up. Maggie sees her sister in the bar. Amanda tells her that she can see that Maggie is smitten, having always loved Jack. The New Year’s Eve party sells out in an hour.
Jack and Maggie go to the cocktail party. Whilst talking to Judd, they are surprised to find out that he is expecting a midnight kiss live on air. After the cocktail party, they go to the bar and reminisce. They arrange a dinner at Maggie’s apartment to commemorate the anniversary of her mother’s death. They talk about broken hearts, with Jack admitting that Bianca Bell (Hannah Gordon) broke his heart in high school.
Maggie says she had her heart broken once but does not tell him who it was. As they walk home, Maggie tells Jack that she has never had a midnight kiss. Jack says they should practice but the blaring of a car horn dissuades them.
The next day at the bar, an anxious Steve is waiting for Jack. When he arrives he takes him outside and gives him Maggie’s mother’s ring. Jack is thrown by the gesture and leaves, telling Maggie he is not feeling well. On his way home, Jack runs into Bianca. They go for a drink and a catch-up.
Bianca tells Jack that Maggie was heartbroken when he did not take her to the prom. She also tells him that she broke up with him because he loved Maggie. Jack denies loving Maggie. He realises that he has forgotten his dinner with Maggie and rushes over to try and make it up to her. Maggie is not happy and admits that she feels he always puts her second.
Maggie goes to see her dad. She asks him how he knew that her mother was the one. He tells her that she had a fear of spiders but when she heard him falling in the attic, she ran through cobwebs to get to him. Maggie is not sure that Jack would run through cobwebs for her.
It is New year’s Eve and they are doing their morning show. Maggie is still angry at Jack. Maggie goes out for coffee and bumps into Seb. Jack sees them together in the coffee shop and realises he does not want to lose her. He goes to see his dad for advice.
At the party, Jack sees Judd and is told that he is thinking of giving them separate shows. Jack, taken aback, asks if Maggie knows about the idea. Judd tells him that she does and seemed open to it. As midnight approaches, Jack tells the live stream and the listeners that they are not getting together with their prospective partners or, as their families and bosses believe, one another.
Maggie admits that their relationship is a sham and they only got together for the sake of their career. She leaves the stage. Jack tells the live stream that he loves Maggie and does not want his own show. He sings a song that he wrote for her and they get together for real and kiss at midnight.
A year later, Jack proposes to her with the ring Steve gave him. Maggie accepts. The end.
Final thoughts: Midnight at the Magnolia is a delightful rom-com written by Carley Smale and directed by Max McGuire. Hall and Williams are perfectly cast as life long best friends who dance around their love for one another. Williams is particularly good as the clueless Jack, oblivious to that fact that his best friend is in love with him.
All the cast play their parts perfectly well, something that really helps the central pairing seem more believable. The pacing of the film is good and it whizzes through its eighty-seven-minute runtime.
Being a post-Christmas film, with the plot running up to a New Year’s Eve party, the film is slightly festive, being set in winter, without any mention of Christmas. The script is more amusing through its character interaction rather than any pithy witticisms in the writing but it all flows very naturally.
Midnight at the Magnolia is a nice film to while away eighty-seven minutes. Sweet.