Late Night (2019)
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The movie is an involving critique of the television industry. Kaling, who also wrote this, is clearly working from past experiences of a woman of color working in a white male industry. The message and plot are told in a smart, natural, and playful way. Yeah, the whole follows the ol' bright-eyed-newcomer warms the heart of the experienced curmudgeon trope, but the movie does such a fine job, that it didn't matter much.
Mindy does a fine job of being being bubbly and optimistic while also handling the character's low points well. However, this is Thompson's film. She is acting her butt off here. Yeah, the story does ham it up a bit in regards to her apathy and biting remarks toward her writing staff, but Thompson makes the character work. You end up understanding her and feel for her by the end.
This is one of those rare films where almost the entire supporting and ancillary cast and characters just work. Most personalities, even for the more minor members of Thompson's writing staff are well-crafted. I simply don't have time to credit all the actors in this.
For a comedy the movie isn't brightly shot, which is often the norm. However, this does kind of accentuate the New York setting and real world roots of the subject manner.
Overall, temper your expectations about plot originality, but still expect to be entertained.
Newbury is in a self-imposed rut, and has been for over 10 years: a lazy, formulaic rolling out of the same old schtick with the same boring types of older guests. This is progressively disenfranchaising her from the growing millenial audience; her rating are plummenting and her network boss (Amy Ryan) is happy to advise that the end is nigh.
"Personal excellence" is her watchword, so this comes as a big surprise to her. Less so though to her Parkinson's afflicted older husband, and famous ex-comic Walter Lovell (John Lithgow).
Things need to change. Katherine insists on hiring a woman: any woman. And Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling) is in the right place at the right time. She joins the misogynistic all-male, all-white writing team and sparks fly. So can Katherine - who also has never met the writers! - turn the ship around?
The script by Mindy Kaling drips with great lines. (She cut her comedy writing teeth on the US version of "The Office"). The exchanges between Thompson and Kaling are often the best. One of these is particularly sharp: where Thompson's Newbury launches into a diatribe about the narcissistic nature of youngsters on social media. She moans that young people are constantly spouting their deepest feelings online, in a constant search for some sort of collective redemption. This is a clever and perceptive piece of writing: Newbury comes from my post-war generation where life was just about "bloody getting on with it".
"TimesUp" messages heavily weight the script. But an issue, for me, is that these female empowerment (and the positive racial discrimination messages) are rather too firmly driven home. A scene that particularly grates is the final one that goes completely overboard with the saccharine.
Emma Thompson and John Lithgow, an acting dream-team, don't disappoint particularly when they bounce off each other. But it's a shame that they don't have more scenes together. Lithgow's role in general seems rather light and superficial. For example, there's a scene where Walter and Molly meet during a party, and I was expecting some sort of cute student:mentor relationship to develop; but no, he remains forever on the sidelines.
Thompson's 'wicked witch of the broadcasting west' is a heartless hatchet-women, performing Trump-like firings in withering fashion. It's a characterisation as vivid as Streep's equivalent from "The Devil Wears Prada". "Thawing" scenes where she reengages with real-life and hits the streets for outside broadcasts, are well done.
Kaling's role was, for me, fine without being totally sparkling. I found her character a tad annoying, and never 100% believable. I did enjoy though the performances of Reid Scott (famous for being Dan in "Veep") and Denis O'Hare as Katherine's right hand man Brad. My wife and I spent AGES trying to place where we knew the latter from: IMDB put us out of our agony.... he is the hilarious Judge Abernathy from "The Good Wife"/"The Good Fight" series.
There are some pretty dodgy films out there at the moment and "Late Night" is not one of them. It's a solid and entertaining night out at the movies: seeing Dame Emma Thompson strutting her stuff is good value for any movie dollar.
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Very talented actors fill the screen. Two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson stars as Katherine Newbury, the stuck-in-her-ways, Emmy winning talk show host hanging on based on reputation and longevity in the business. Her character reminds me of David Letterman towards the end of his long run ... scandal and all. Mindy Kaling co-stars as Molly Patel, a factory, err, chemical plant worker, who dreams of being a comedy writer, but puts no effort into actually learning the craft. Instead, luck puts her in the right place at the time the show needs a token hire. Enter Molly, a woman of color in a writers' room full of white men. The interesting dynamic here is that most of the men in the room probably got their seat thanks to connections, while Molly got hers based on gender. Talent and skill seem to play no part for any of them.
The story is basically Molly trying to find her true self by helping Katherine modernize her evil ways and save her job. There are quite a few little sub-stories - can't really call them subplots - that mostly distract from the overall direction, but serve the purpose of allowing punchlines or supposedly insightful social commentary. John Lithgow plays Katherine's wise, Parkinson's stricken husband, and the writers' boys club includes Hugh Dancy ("Hannibal"), Reid Scott ("Veep"), Max Casella ("Ray Donovan"), Paul Walter Hauser (I, TONYA), and Denis O'Hare ("True Blood"). Ike Barinholtz plays the hot young comedian being groomed as Katherine's replacement, and it's Amy Ryan ("The Office") who really registers as the network President. More of Ms. Ryan's character and more attention to the network perspective would have improved the film.
Director Nisha Ganatra ("Transparent") is working from the script by Ms. Kaling, whose real life experiences as a token hire in the industry could have been better presented. A lame stab at a romance distracts from the reactions of the threatened writers materializing in a lack of respect towards Molly, and most of the comedy felt forced and obvious, rather than real and painful (the sources of the best comedy). It's a shame that most any episode of "30 Rock" or "The Office" provides more insightful commentary and comedy than this film. It's such a missed opportunity.
On par with the bad batch of Sandler netflix comedies of late.
The only plus is the fact that if you watch it early you can carousel through the rest of netflix and avoid this one.
Here is another men and bad, women are good film hammering SJW gibberish down our throat. All of is based on feelings over facts. I'm sick of fake diversity, i.e. gender and race, but rather lets see some real diversity of thought out of Hollywood.
This movie has a lot of heart. It touches upon many tenets: gender discrimination, age discrimination, nepotism, elitism, the corporate "food chain," formal education and more. It does not simply criticize the existence of the inequalities in society but instead actually explains and perhaps justifies their existence.
This is one of the best movies I've seen this year. In fact, I'm going back to change my "9" to a "10!"
Molly (Mindy Kaling), a new writer on the old Katherine Newbury late night talk show, is as earnest as Katherine is tough. Despite firing Molly more than once for that honesty, Katherine calls her back each time for Molly's connection to contemporary social media culture, her youthful optimism, and most importantly--being a woman
Late Night is a savvy and witty deconstruction of the ego-driven talk show hosting and the relentless adjustment older hosts must make to contemporary culture and openness. Katherine's rapid fire, spit fire putdowns are worthy of screwball comedy and hosting invective best exemplified by an original host, Jack Parr. But, of course, her supercilious, caustic attitude is eventually what puts her on the employment chopping block.
Besides the aging business is her staffing challenge: all male writers, who never meet with their boss. The sexism usually suspected in the entertainment business is only too apparent when the camera pans the table of male writers. (It works both ways as she is thought not to like women anyway.) Their acceptance of Molly is cold and ignorant because she is warm, honest, and funny.
Molly's down-to-earth spunk gets the beleaguered host's attention. Although no audience will be surprised by the turn of events, the acting is so top flight and writing spot on that waiting for the next bit of humor is the chief delight. While the plot is formulaic, the two actresses command attention.
Because I loved the Meryl Streep's Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, uncompromisingly tough while being uncommonly talented, Katherine appeals to me. Tough is not bad, and it can be tamed for the times.
The theme of the need to love your fellow humans is clear and applicable to the audience and the characters alike. To the characters the theme becomes the powerful advice to get a life, a behavior that just may provide the skills necessary to keep a job and enjoy a life.
Late Night shows it's not too late to change, and the denouement is as positive as you might expect a comedy to offer. Although J K Simmons' Fletcher in Whiplash defines the tough teacher, Emma Thompson's Katherine takes the role of leader a step farther toward charity and happiness.
As usual, Thompson plays a shallow one-dimensional role that seems the same as every other role she has played (and no doubt will play) - it's just Thompson on a different set.
This is a big miss and not worth spending your time or money on.