Monday, July 01, 2019

Late Night

I swear, I was working at two words a night writing this, hoping to get just a little bit more done before bed while on vacation and just getting a very little bit more done. Which, I suppose, is fitting; it didn't have a big impact on me and maybe wasn't a great bit of pre-vacation triage in that if I only had time for one movie, maybe it should have been Last Black Man in San Francisco. But I didn't.

Still, I'm not exactly this movie's primary audience, even if I do love Ms. Thompson, as I suspect that a lot of what plays as just kind of stating true things without a joke or even as part of a conversation for me may be fairly cathartic to hear spoken out loud for others. It can be hard to measure. I still tend to think the film could have done a lot more - it raises interesting topics about how successful women often find themselves successful by assimilating into a mostly-male environment and wind up discriminating the same way, for instance, but kind of stops there.half the time, like Katherine just needs to hear something from the woman she hired on a whim to turn about and another character doesn't even need that

Late Night

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 20 June 2019 in AMC Boston Common #9 (first-run, DCP)

It's not unusual for a movie to take a few shortcuts in order to make a story more dramatic or fit into two hours; the weird thing about Late Night is that the filmmakers seemingly can't help but mention that it's a compressed and simplified story, saying "isn't this unlikely?" every once in a while. Maybe that sort of self-awareness is an inevitable result of making a movie about your job making television as writer and star Mindy Kaling et al have done here - the filmmakers can't help but be aware of what they are doing - but it also means you kind of know they could do better by Kaling, Emma Thompson, and the rest of the group.

Thompson plays Katherine Newbury, who in a better universe than our has been hosting a late-night talk show for the better part of three decades, although many would say her show has not actually been good for a while. When she fires a writer and gets a bee in her bonnet about her long-time producer (Denis O'Hare) hiring a woman to replace him - she has an all-white/male writers' room - Molly Patel (Kaling) is in the right place at the right time, despite her lack of experience. Though Katherine, facing replacement, is determined to take a more active role (many of the writers have not actually met her), she's initially reluctant to modernize the show or utilize more topical material.

There's a fair amount of ambition to what at first glance can seem like a simple comedy of mismatched partners, but the trick with this sort of plan is finding a way to distribute this ambition well. There's weight to Katherine's side of the story, because she's had to live with compromises and little hypocrisies and it's formed into an interesting web, while Molly's issues are simpler and more prone to be confronted directly, even if they are no less important. There are bitter and rowdy jokes to be pulled from both - Kaling and director Nisha Ganatra are good at locating them - but the experienced half of the movie feels more concrete, while the bits about Molly breaking in have a harder time finding handholds.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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