FlixChatter Review: LATE NIGHT (2019)

I watched Dame Emma Thompson on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where she described this movie as a science-fiction given that her character is a late-night talk show host. Ba da bing! She definitely has a point there, a jab at the establishment she delivered rather stealthily the only way she could.

Thompson’s character, Katherine Newbury, is the only woman ever to have a long-running program on late night in a male-dominated field, just like real life. However, the award-winning late-night talk show host has been losing her mojo. In fact, her ratings is declining so much that her network threatens to replace her with a younger, more hip male host. Portrayed as a sarcastic British icon who’s notoriously principled and detached, she’s also, as her producer points out, has a reputation as a ‘woman who hates women.’ All her writers, which Katherine herself barely even knew, are all white males. Along comes Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), a former quality control expert from a Pennsylvania chemical plan, who’s swiftly hired to fulfill the gender diversity quota.

It’s amazing how timely this film is right now, so much so that you can’t help but cringe at some of the humorous bits. Not cringing because the jokes were bad, but because they feel so true. There’s a scene when Molly came in to an office full of guys who refuse to even give her a chair to sit on that she had to sit on trash bin. Not to mention the blatant male chauvinistic remarks and how they constantly made her feel that she doesn’t belong. I find myself astonished at how Molly seems impervious to those remarks and how she’s able to deflect those harassments. But of course in real life, it’s the kind of thing many people of color have to deal with and I for one, can definitely relate to her.

The fact that Katherine and Molly are from very different backgrounds and have led extremely different lives are played to great effect here. Naturally, culture clashes is always a potent subject for comedies, and in the right hands, they can be poignant, eye-opening as well as hilarious. Thompson is a legend on and off screen and I can’t imagine a more perfect actor for the part (apparently Kaling wrote this character specifically for her). Katherine is quite a difficult person to like at first, but then again, it’s not like she gives a hoot if you actually like her or not (so long as you watch her show), yet she made you care about her journey. Molly on the other hand, is someone you utterly sympathize with from the start, but soon you realize she doesn’t want/need your pity. She doesn’t need a savior, thank you very much. A message that’s delivered brilliantly in the ‘white savior’ bit in Katherine’s show where she basically forces herself to ‘save’ people of color in various circumstances such as hailing a cab. It’s delivered with glee but the message is utterly powerful.

The world of late-night TV feels really believable. Now, I don’t know how it actually works behind the scenes with the writers, etc. but it felt like the filmmakers spent a great deal researching it to present something that felt true. Director Nisha Ganatra keeps the flow at the right pace while balancing the funny bits with genuine emotional moments. The parts between Katherine and her husband Walter is deeply moving. John Lithgow‘s performance elevates him far above the token supportive husband role. Hugh Dancy is quite convincing as the pretty boy home-wrecker, while Reid Scott and Max Casella have some memorable scenes as two of Katherine’s writers.

Kaling and Thompson plays on the the ‘odd couple’ type that you don’t often see on screen. What an intriguing and powerful new dynamic duo who actually displays character resilience and inner strength that’s truly inspiring. It’s also refreshing to see a ‘coming of age’ story about a woman in her 60s for a change. As in real life, it’s never too late to reinvent oneself and it takes courage to admit one’s mistake and own up to it. I also appreciate the ending that offers a subtle nod to the burgeoning relationship between Molly and Scott’s character, without pandering to the fact that the leading lady wouldn’t be complete without a man in her life. We need more movies like Late Night, it proves just how satisfying AND enjoyable a movie can be when women get to be in charge of their own narrative.


Have you seen LATE NIGHT? Let me know what you think!

 

Weekend Roundup: Hysteria Review

Happy Monday all!

It’s been a busy weekend for me, girls movie nite, a friend’s birthday party, etc. all scheduled around the same time. Suffice to say, there’s no time for cinema viewing this weekend, though I finally did send y’all a reminder for the Small Roles… Big Performances blogathon, hope all you who signed up got it. Some of you probably stayed up late watching the Emmys, well since I hardly watched any TV, I didn’t even know it was on ’til I saw that it practically dominated Twitter on Sunday night. Well, hope those you rooted for wins! 😀

Anyway, here’s my review for this weekend:

Hysteria

That title refers to a now-obsolete [thank goodness!] catch-all diagnosis for women in the 19th century, those suffering from an array of symptoms such as nervousness, insomnia, exhaustion, depression, cramps, and sexual frustration. At the time, the medical practitioners treat the patients by um, massaging their genital area. In short, the movie explores the background of the invention of none other than the vibrator!

Given the subject matter, it could’ve easily been made into a cheap, vulgar farce, but fortunately, the filmmaker and cast somehow made this into a delightful comedy that keeps your cringe level at a minimum. Perhaps the fact that it’s directed by a woman (Tanya Wexler) might have something to do with it. Even the whole procedure of the “paroxysmal convulsions” as they call it at the time (which we all know what THAT means) is um, handled with care, even methodical to a fault!

Hugh Dancy plays Dr. Mortimer Granville (apparently based on this real doctor), an earnest physician who wants to make his mark on the work helping the sick, but somehow his vision is deemed too modern for his peers who didn’t see eye-to-eye on the effect of germs in human’s health! Somehow Granville ends up in the private clinic of Dr. Dalrymple, who employs Granville to treat women with hysteria with his method of a pelvic massage. As you could’ve guessed, the treatment was a massive success, with women lining up in his office day after day, which quickly leads to the poor Dr. Granville suffering from a severe hand cramps.

The invention of the vibrator itself is quite a hoot! Let’s just say that it was fortuitous how the inventors came up with such a device, in fact, it was meant to be an electrical duster!! The story is intertwined with that of Dalrymple’s oldest daughter Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), the independent, free-spirited woman who wouldn’t submit to the societal norm for women in the 19th century and has a servant heart for the poor. Granville is inevitably torn between her and the more ‘obedient’ daughter Emily (Felicity Jones), though one could see a mile away who he’d end up with.

The movie is full of hysterical good fun, but not in a patronizing manner towards women, in fact, it’s quite obvious the filmmakers are for women emancipation, as the portrayal of Charlotte as the unconventional heroine is nothing but subtle. It’s a sex comedy, but it’s nice to see there’s more than that and I must say I’m glad we’ve come a long way in terms of women’s rights.

The standouts here are Dancy and Gyllenhaal, they are the heart of the story, with the vibrant Gyllenhaal stealing scenes every time she appears. She’s got screen charisma to be sure, and she captures the essence of a modern woman ahead of her time perfectly here. Jonathan Pryce was pretty good as Dr. Dalrymple, though I feel that Rupert Everett as Granville’s wealthy inventor friend seems rather bored throughout and Felicity Jones wasn’t really given much to do.

As it’s inspired by true events, the credits include images of early models of the sex toy from the Victorian era all the way to today’s. The ending suggests that even Queen Victoria herself was a customer, ahah! Hysteria works as a hysterical comedy, even rom-com, even if it’s lacking historical depth. But for a Friday night entertainment for a girls night in, it perfectly delivers!

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


I also got to rewatch one of my favorite Pixar movies, Monsters, Inc. which renews my appreciation for the movie, all the wonderful characters, and especially Billy Crystal-voiced Mike Wazowski! No surprise that he’s #2 on my top ten Pixar characters list.

The beauty of Pixar truly is in the story and characters, it’s just amazing how we easily got caught up in the world of these silly looking monsters and their plight involving one cutie-patootie human child!

So even though I had trepidations about it initially, now I’m quite looking forward to Monsters University!


Well, how’s YOUR weekend? Seen anything good?

A superhero movie I’d like to see: The Flash

I know what you’re thinking, we’ve got way too many superhero movies as it is, do we really need another one?? But let’s face it, whether we like it or not, Hollywood isn’t done with ’em anytime soon, and to be fair, some of them are definitely worth seeing. To keep from having superhero flix fatigue though, I’m being more selective in choosing which ones to see. Captain America? Maybe. Green Hornett/Lantern? No/Maybe. Batman 3? Heck, yes!

Well, the past few weeks there were reports (here and here) that the same three writers (Greg Berlanti, Michael Green and Marc Guggenheim) who are writing Green Lantern, have done a ‘treatment’ (I’m guessing it means the initial concept?) for the speedy red guy The Flash, with the possibility of one of those writers penning the script in the future. DC has been quite lacking compared to Marvel in the past few years, with the latter generating a lot of buzz for their upcoming projects: Thor, Capt. America, Spiderman and X-Men: First Class, to name a few. Besides the big two, Batman and Superman, the only other DC comic-book character I’d pay to see the movie version is The Flash.

My hubby and I happen to be a fan of the early 90s TV series of the Barry Allen version (Wikipedia listed three other interpretations of The Flash) with John Wesley Shipp and Amanda Pays. Not so much because it was such a great show, but more of a fondness for the character itself, who got the extraordinary ability to run at lightning speed as a result of, what else, freak scientific accident. We think it’d make a great origins story because of the simplicity of the character. Unlike Superman, he doesn’t have a gazillion superpowers he has at his disposal; and unlike Batman, he’s not a rich, privileged guy, nor does he have the tragic, complex background to contend with. Now, I have no clue what Guggenheim and co. have in mind for the concept, but I just think that the story of The Flash doesn’t need to tread into philosophical territory or a dark, fierce tale of revenge. Instead, it’d be great if they make this light and funny, taking advantage of Barry’s befuddlement upon his initial discovery of his powers and his lack of control of his powers. Such as in this clip when he ran so fast he ended up running 30+ miles into the ocean with his clothes all torn up, or this clip below that shows his enormous appetite as his powers drained all his blood sugar, and how his speed might not work for house cleaning 😀 So in essence, more Iron Man than Batman Begins.

Over lunch a couple of weeks back, we actually had an extensive discussion about who’d be perfect for the role. Well, even just by watching these old TV clips, we kept thinking Ryan Reynolds (and we’re surely not the only ones). I mean, he kind of resembles the TV actor and he can tackle the goofyl, bumbling stuff as well as the action aspect believably. Too bad he’s already signed on for Green Lantern. Another one we thought of is already taken also, Chris Evans, who’s already playing Captain America. But come to think of it, physically The Flash shouldn’t be too buff, in fact, he should be on the tall and slim side. My hubby also thinks one possibility is going with a youthful cast (under 30), with the character being kind of a juvenile brat of sort, and he has a bit of ‘growing up’ to do as he’s taking on more responsibility as a superhero.

So with that in mind, we think these five actors can look the part, as well as able to pull off the playful, humorous nature of the character.

L-R: Lee, Adam, Zach, Hugh and Matthew


Updated 2/4/2013:

Out of these five, I’m rooting for Lee Pace the most. I mean he’s American-born, 6’3″ tall, lanky and gorgeous! Not to mention he’s talented and can pull off both the heroic and comedic side of the role. How he still hasn’t got a superhero vehicle to this day is beyond me. So yeah, Lee Pace for The Flash please, Hollywood!!


Well, how do you feel about The Flash movie adaptation? Any casting ideas while you’re at it?