“ Late Night”

Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling team up for a comedic drama about women coexisting in the field of late night tv hosting, a field dominated by men. Thompson, as Katharine Newbury, has been hosting her own show for twenty-eight years. Her gig is getting stale, and the head of the network, Caroline Moran ( Amy Ryan) is ready to dump her. Too many interviews with Doris Kearns Goodwin brings on the line that Goodwin could be an Avenger if she tried! Moran also scoffs at a ” folded fitted sheet race” segment. All the criticism leads Katharine to mock a viral video of dog butt sniffing which itself goes horribly viral.

Most of the screen time is showing us who Newbury is. A rather snobbish, direct and tough woman, who eschews social media and protégées. ” I will not allow you to destroy the show I built.” sounds much tougher than the easy compromising she exhibits. She takes no time in calling her surprising three year affair ” reprehensible”. We never learn what becomes of “Charlie”. John Lithgow plays Katharine’s forgiving husband.

Mindy Kaling, the first Indian-American to have her own show, plays Molly. Molly works at a chemical plant , but is obsessed with comedy. Molly is hired to prove that Katharine does not hate women and to diversify the all thirtyish- something male fifedom. One of the funniest lines is Molly saying that she is not worried about the masculinity in the room. Many of the writers are obviously gay.

Many of the jokes are based on appearances. Katharine’s spikey hair is challenged by her black publicist. ” How do you feel about extensions?” Molly attends a party with the tags still on her dress. The monologues could be funnier, and viewers are dragged through Molly watching old stand-ups and gazing at the accolade room full of Golden Globes and Emmies. Katharine tells Molly that her earnestness is hard to be around. The suspiciousness of the famous is well documented. Slut shaming is addressed, as is selfishness. While Katharine is often unusually cruel, her complacency is what has driven her ratings down. Caroline tells Katharine to “give a damn” and the two strike a deal. The jokes, the growth, the women karma did not seem that fresh to me.

“ Beautiful Boy”

A family split apart by drugs is not fun to watch, but this is a film that should be seen for its empathetic value.. In 2017, over 10,000 lives were lost in the United States due to crystal meth use. This film does not show most of the grungy side effects, but it does provide facts on brain neural function decline while skipping the rotting teeth. Belgian director Felix Van Groeningen has just the right objectivity to frame the true story of the dynamics of a family in pain without shocking us with ravaged bodies.

Based on the memoirs of San Francisco journalist David Sheff, “Beautiful Boy” begins with the father seeking help in understanding what this drug is doing to his son. Steve Carell tries to be stoic as he asks a drug counselor ( Tim Hutton) what he can do to help his son, Nic. ( Timothee Chalamet). Through a series of flashbacks, the film gives us a history of fatherly love of the unconditional sort.

Sweet episodes of Carell singing John Lennon’s “ Beautiful Boy” to his own son at age four mesh into memories of father /son surfing, biking, and sharing experiences. They talk. They hug.

Events have not been perfect. There has been divorce and two siblings,ten years younger, vie for parental attention. Stepmother Karen, played beautifully by Amy Ryan, supports her husband and loves her stepson. Tension arises while protecting their younger children. Her artist easels and canvases eventually are crammed into Nic’s room which make him feel pushed out. When a druggy girlfriend and Nic break into the house, Karen chases them but gives up in a puddle of fraught sobs.

Chalamet’s interplay with his young siblings is some of the most affecting. When the six-year-old asks if Nic is on drugs again, we wince. The family turning lights on and off has symbolic meaning. Like all drug addictions, this is a roller-coaster ride of hospital calls, disappearances,in-house treatment centers, and relapses and recoveries. Nic sees the hopelessness in the process. When David mimicks his counselor’s bromide that “ relapse is part of the process of recovery”, Nic chides in with “ Dad, that’s like saying crashing is part of piloting!”

The editing of the first part of “Beautiful Boy” is perfectly nuanced, but then it is as if the editing team went on vacation. Signs of depression, isolation, heavy metal music, experimentation, and fear and anxiety of high expectations are touched upon. Hedonic excuses of “I felt better than I ever have” sink into more lies and hiding. “Taking the edge off stupid reality” has its draw backs in rainy searches, group sessions, internet tutorials on injecting safely, and dark poetry, and wild handwriting.

When Carell begins lunching with users to learn more of what his son is experiencing, we know he is going to snort to feel his son’s euphoria. Monsters are back two-fold. The young children, Daisy and Jasper, are the only ones who don’t seem to know of the single digit success rate for meth addicts. Nic’s biological mother, Vicky( Maura Tierney) gives her best, as does Nic’s AA sponsor, Spenser.

I have warned my three friends who have been through this ordeal not to see this film alone. Seeing a family from the rear view mirror is just too much. The pee specimens, the morgue visits, the vomit are dirges enough. When Nic says “ I am addicted to craziness. You are embarrassed. Mom should have gotten custody. You try to control everything”, the audience sighs. And when Carell says, “ I trust you, but we need proof” as he hands Chalamet the pee jar, we acutely understand Nic’s wry comment: “ That’s about as contradictory as it gets.” The film’s ending leaves us feeling the same way.

An endnote:
Film viewers, you will miss the tone of this memoir if you leave before the poem by Charles Bukowski, “ Let It Enfold” is recited by Nic. If you jump up and walk out, you have lost.