Nisha Ganatra’s ‘Late Night’ is not the most original film in any year – it’s a retread of the ‘Devil Wears Prada’ formula – but it is a lot of fun and has charm to spare, and I instantly liked it. Written by Mindy Kaling, (I never warmed up to her until now) it showcases one of our great living legends – Emma Thompson – and she doesn’t have to do much to run away with the film.
Or at the very least, Thompson makes it look easy. Even though the character is really just a variation of Miranda Priestly, Thompson makes it sizzle, and she give it more depth than how it was written. She plays Kathryn Newbury, a late night talk show host whose program has gone stale. This is probably because her writing staff is comprised of all the same people – white males all straight except for a token gay. To change this, the show hires Molly (Kaling) and well, you can probably guess what happens next. But it doesn’t matter, because Thompson and Kaling spar off each other marvelously, and the quick pacing makes you ignore holes in the plot. It’s all formula, but it works because of that. and it’s a timely message, if a bit too heavy handed, especially towards the end. Still, it’s frothy summer fun, even if it is still cold in Los Angeles.
A friend of mine was telling me that his best friend’s ten year old son was in a skiing accident and is now in life support. The parents now have to make a decision on whether to ‘pull the plug.’ That made me think. I think I have always been a practical person (I am a Virgo) and even though I believe in God and very spiritual, I myself would not have any problems making a decision like that if told that we are at the end of a road.
That also made me think of a movie I saw recently, Richard Eyre’s ‘The Children Act,’ which more or less touches the same issue. Fiona Maye is a judge, played by Emma Thompson, who has to rule on a case of a teenager who needs blood transfusion. But he and his parents are devout Jehovah’s Witnesses, and their religion forbids that. Before she rules on the case though, she visits the teenager in the hospital, and in his eyes, a special bond forms between them. But perhaps in her eyes as well? She is int he middle of a crumbling marriage, and perhaps she sees in him the answer to that. While the story about the case was interesting, I thought what happens after was even more riveting – we see the relationship between the two laid out, and we see both of them changing. And Thompson gives a fantastic internal performance. It’s her film, really, and she shows here why is one of the best living actresses, expressing emotions with a glance or a finger flutter. Fionn Whitehead plays Adam, and he is great as well (apparently he was in ‘Dunkirk,’ but i don’t remember which part he played) providing complexity as a troubled teen whose eyes were opened, only to be closed again. This movie is thought provoking, but it will also touch your heart.
Sometimes I ask myself, will we ever tire of movies about the second world war? But of course there are still a million stories to be told, and all of them will be fascinating. ‘Alone In Berlin’ is based on book from 1947, about a husband and wife whose son perishes on the front line. As a result, they become silent rebels against the regime. Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson play Anna and Otto Quangel and Gleeson plays the father with quiet rebellion as he is unable to express his frustration with verbal anger. He is magnificent in conveying that Thompson matches, although her role is in a small scale.
I wish the film was more bombastic but I have to admit I found parts of it boring, and the pace dragging. I can sense the film’s passion but is never fully realized on screen.