Late Night

Posted on June 6, 2019 at 5:01 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout and some sexual references
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Smoking, social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Reference to deaths of parent and co-worker, tense confrontations
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: June 7, 2019

Copyright 2019 Amazon Studios
“Late Night” is a festival favorite written by and starring Mindy Kaling, who created just the right role for herself as an Indian-American woman who gets her dream job as a comedy writer, working for a tyrannical late night talk show host played by Emma Thompson. Kaling, who has often talked about her love for romantic comedies played a character in her television series who imagined herself as the heroine of one (understanding them only on the most superficial and self-involved level), has created what is in essence a rom-com about a work relationship between two women, one hopelessly optimistic, one relentlessly cynical.

Kaling plays Molly, a quality control specialist in a chemical plant who gets a one in a million shot at the job by winning an essay competition. Katherine (Thompson) has just imperiously ordered her long-suffering producer (Denis O’Hare) to add a woman to the all-male, all-white writing staff, so he gives Molly a chance. What the writers do not know is that the new head of the network (Amy Ryan), who likes to talk about “four-quadrant” audiences (males and females over and under 25 years old) and ROI (return on investment), thinks Katherine, despite her multiple Emmys and other awards, has become out of date and out of touch with her audience. Ratings are down, and Katherine is unlikely to boost them as long as she insists on having guests like Senator Diane Feinstein and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Katherine demands “excellence” from everyone around her, and that means total dedication. Her manner is abrupt and imperious and she fires staff like she’s the Queen of Hearts calling “Off with their heads!” She refuses to capitulate to what she considers the dumbing down of the media (and the world). When her producer persuades her to have a viral YouTube star who makes videos of her sniffing her dog’s butt on the show, the withering contempt she cannot hide alienates her shrinking audience further. She is pushed onto social media, but her first joke about Twitter bombs, perhaps because she calls it “Twittah” but also because she has not taken the time to understand what it is.

There are just two things she cares about, her husband (John Lithgow), who is in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, and her show. Both are being taken from her, and she does not have the resources to respond.

Katherine literally does not know the names of her writers, many of whom have never even met her. She has no interest in learning their names, and when she finally sits down in the writers’ room, she assigns them all numbers.

Kaling, who was both writer and actress on the US version of “The Office,” has a good feeling for the “He Man Women Haters”-Our Gang-style dynamics of the all-male writer’s room. They are so used to having no women around that they use the ladies’ room. And her being there doesn’t stop them. At first, she brings her quality control perspective, analyzing what’s missing from the show, until one of the writers gives her some good advice: write something.

Kaling has said that (until “Wrinkle in Time”) every part she has had is one she has had to create for herself. Her strength as a writer is giving us characters who are three-dimensional, vivid, and smart. Both Molly and Katherine filter Kaling’s experiences and perspective in writing for television, the relentlessness of sifting through jokes to put together a polished monologue of perfectly crafted comedy only to have to start over again the next day, the treacherous balancing act between giving enough of yourself to connect with the audience while keeping enough private to keep your sanity and sustain relationships, the even more treacherous challenge of staying on top while people who are every bit as ambitious try to topple you.

She shortchanges Molly a bit here, particularly when she lets herself get hurt by someone her character would be instantly wary of. We get the sense that it is the Katherine character who interests her more, and it gives Thompson one of her all-time best roles. In the first half, she effortlessly tosses off Katherine’s most devastating take-downs, a woman who insists on excellence in a world that does not seem to want it. But in the second half, when Katherine has to be unsure and vulnerable, Thompson gives a performance of exquisite depth and precision. “I hope I have earned the privilege of your time,” Katherine tells her audience. Kaling and Thompson make the privilege ours.

Parents should know that this film includes substantial strong language, sexual references, some potty humor, smoking, and infidelity.

Family discussion: Would you have hired Molly? Why didn’t Katherine change sooner? What was Katherine’s funniest joke?

If you like this, try: “Dancing in September” and “The Mindy Project” and “Larry Sanders Show” television series

Related Tags:

 

AWFJ Movie of the Week Comedy Drama Gender and Diversity movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Race and Diversity

Adam

Posted on August 6, 2009 at 6:00 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic material, sexual content and language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Tense confrontations, sad death, betrayal
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: July 31, 2009

Adam (Hugh Dancy), appropriately shares his name with the first man because even though he lives in contemporary Manhattan, he is in a very real way new to the world. He seems at once tightly wound and untethered. When he talks about astronomy and outer space he seems not just vastly knowledgeable but more at home there than he is where he works or where he lives. We can tell right away that he is unusual, but we do not learn how or why until mid-way through the film. He has Asperger Syndrome, a sort of social dyslexia, an inability to pick up on social cues that “neuro-typical” (most people) recognize instinctively. For him, what happens in the sky makes more sense because it is rational and predictable than what happens in human interaction, where people do not always say what they mean and what is most interesting to work on is not always what his employer needs him to do.

We first see Adam standing at a grave site. His father, his tether to and buffer from the world, has died and for the first time he must try to make sense of things on his own. A young teacher named Beth (Rose Byrne) moves into his apartment building. She, too, is at a vulnerable moment, struggling with loss and betrayal. A man who cannot lie has a lot of appeal to her, and for a while at least that may make up for what he lacks.

Writer/director Max Mayer has crafted a sensitive, even lyrical, script that quickly makes us care about both of these characters. We want Adam and Beth to be happy, but Mayer wisely is not clear whether that means having them together or apart. This is not a movie about an exotic set of Aspergers symptoms. It is a movie about Adam and Beth, who have struggles that will be familiar to anyone who ever tried to find trust, connection and a place to feel at home. Like the raccoon they watch in Central Park, all of us feel at times that we are not supposed to here, but we are, and we must find a way to make the best of it. Perhaps Mayer’s canniest choice as a writer was to give Beth such good reasons to find Adam appealing. Her vulnerability after a bad breakup has her thinking at first that Adam’s standoffish behavior just means he is not that into her. It does not occur to her that it is because of his social limitations. As a warm-hearted teacher, she is naturally drawn to someone who needs her. Her father (Peter Gallagher) objects to Adam, but it is her mother (a most welcome Amy Irving) whose own example tells Beth what she most needs to know.

Byrne is appealing as Beth, and the cast includes strong support from Irving and from Broadway veteran Frankie Faison. But the heart of the movie is Adam and Dancy is excellent, relinquishing the leading man aura he carried so effortlessly in films like “Confessions of a Shopaholic” and “Ella Enchanted” and showing us Adam’s literal sense of tactile friction with the world as well as his longing for the kind of relationship he can not quite understand. It’s as though he is very, very far-sighted, the stars clear to him but what is right in front of him is out of focus. Dancy’s performance and Mayer’s thoughtful script and direction are just right in bringing Adam into sharp focus to illuminate not just his struggles but our own.

Related Tags:

 

Date movie Drama Movies -- format Romance

Interviews about ‘Adam’ — Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne

Posted on August 6, 2009 at 8:00 am

Hugh Dancy plays the title role in “Adam,” the story of a man with Asperger Syndrome, a form of social dyslexia that is on the autism spectrum. As the movie begins, Adam’s father has just died and he must learn to function on his own. Rose Byrne plays Beth, his new neighbor, who finds Adam’s inability to say anything but the literal truth an appealing quality because of her own losses and disappointments.

Hugh, one thing that really struck me in your performance was your walk, which really communicated a lot about the character. How did that develop?

It was a less conscious process than you might imagine. I never walked in my apt seven different ways to try to develop the right one. It was more learning the ways in which people are and are not tactile, being aware of the feeling of certain clothing, observation, obviously, and instinct. The first scene we filmed was the first one in the movie, the scene at my father’s grave. I waited until the camera was rolling and then had to walk away.

I was also impressed with your American accent and way of speaking — very different from the American accent you did in “The Jane Austen Book Club.”

It was as much about figuring out the voice as the accent. What I worked on was the delivery and tonality that is fairly typical of that condition. Getting that right and getting the rhythms right is what really mattered.

Tell me about what made you want to do this film.

What drew me to it was the way the character was treated, as a character as a bunch of symptoms. He is not labeled, until a good third of the way into the film, so you get to know him before you hear what his diagnosis is.

I understand that you and your fiancee, Claire Danes, have now both played characters with Asperger Syndrome.

She plays Temple Grandin in an HBO biopic. I had already finished this film before she took the role, so we shared research and we discussed both characters with each other.

***

Rose, Adam is such an unusual and fascinating character that it must have been a challenge to make Beth and her concerns carry as much weight in the story. How did you make that work?

Beth had a crappy relationship with guys and a father who was overbearing and larger than life. Adam was the antithesis of all the people she was exposed to. And it was important that the romance took a while. That helped to make her role in the story stronger.

I was very interested in the way Beth’s clothes helped to convey her character. How did you work with the costume designer to determine what would best tell her story?

We talked about it a lot. Alysia Raycraft designed the costumes and she jumped at the chance to be creative with Beth and a little eccentric with the clothing. Beth favors vintage clothing, second hand things. We are a little surprised when we see how wealthy her parents’ home is because her clothes and apartment show that she has eschewed her middleclass-ness. A lot of the clothes were mine. Prada heels weren’t in the budget!

Related Tags:

 

Actors Behind the Scenes Interview

The Jane Austen Book Club

Posted on October 4, 2007 at 12:49 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content, brief strong language and some drug use
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, drug use
Violence/ Scariness: Accident involving minor injuries, tense confrontations
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: October 4, 2007
Date Released to DVD: 2008
Amazon.com ASIN: B000ZS8GW6

I’m pretty sure that Jane Austen never thought of including a lesbian jumping out of an airplane in any of her books, and yet somehow that scene fits in just fine in this story of six people who get together to read all six of Austen’s novels. Austen did manage to cover, in six books all taking place almost entirely in the quiet British countryside of the late 18th century, many variations on the themes of love and learning, and this film shows us how her stories continue to inspire and connect people who realize that very little has changed in the last 200 plus years.
The book club starts as a way to cheer up Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), just dumped by her husband (Jimmy Smits). Sylvia’s friends, the free-spirited Bernadette (Kathy Baker) and the dog-breeding loner Jocelyn (Maria Bello), invite Sylvia’s daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace), an impetuous, extreme sport-loving lesbian. Bernadette impulsively invites Prudie (Emily Blunt), a prim high school French teacher who has never been to France. And Jocelyn even more impulsively invites a man — Hugh Dancy as Grig, a sci-fi loving techie who asks if some of the six Austen books are sequels.
Once a month, they meet to talk about the books, each of them taking turns to host and present. And the themes of the book — from the patient hoping of Mansfield Park and Persuasion to the jump-to-the-wrong conclusions of Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma, to Sense and Sensibility, which has both, each book seems to resonate to one or more of the characters and their own paths to love.
The movie is a big improvement over the wispy novel, which teetered between being cutesy and being cloying. One reason is a brilliant cast, each of whom adds tremendous heart and vibrancy to the story. It also benefits from lively direction and high spirits provided by screenwriter Robin Swicord. The opening credit sequence sets the stage with a collection of scenes showing the frustrations of modern life. And the pacing keeps things light and bubbly, making it clear that, like Austen’s heroines, a happy ending will be in store.
Parents should know that this movie includes explicit sexual references and situations, gay and straight. A character commits adultery and another considers having sex with a very inappropriate partner. The movie includes brief strong language, alcohol, and drug use.
Families who see this movie should talk about how the stories of the characters parallel the novels by Jane Austen. What are some other examples of “the humbling of the know-it-all pretty girl?” Do you agree that “high school is never over?”
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “In Her Shoes,” and the movies based on and inspired by Jane Austen’s novels, including “Sense and Sensibility,” “Emma,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Bride and Prejudice,” “Clueless,” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Date movie Movies -- format Romance
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik