What fun this movie is! Perhaps an unrealistic premise — a long-time beloved FEMALE late-night TV host — and perhaps a contrivedly sunny ending, but not inconceivable, and so nicely hopeful and optimistic and friendly.
The setup pushes two very different women in each other’s path: the established, intellectual, private, and ruthless Katherine Newbury and the determined, buoyant naif Molly Patel. Katherine’s ratings are fading as times and tastes are passing her by; Molly is taking a long shot at making her dreams come true, leaping from factory QC to TV writer. And what should happen does happen: their interaction prods and pokes them to act with authenticity, passion, and grace.
The movie is all about being true to yourself, and eventually everyone — even the presumed villainess, the hard-edged network president, although not the charming, feckless Lothario whose actions drive the movie’s final conflict — reveals and revels in their best, true self. And that’s nice! We’re shown a situation where an outsider makes a difference by tackling preconceptions and prejudices head on. And everyone learns and grows, and isn’t that the way it should be?
There is so much the movie gets right and models so appealingly that it is almost churlish of me to point out one, to me glaring, weakness. And that is that this is a young person’s movie, even though the central character is close to, gasp, sixty, and her husband, played with quiet sympathy by John Lithgow, is even older, and suffering from early stage Parkinson’s — a disease I can’t recall ever seeing portrayed in a mass market movie. And here’s where I think the filmmakers’ youthful (and by that I mean prime of life as opposed to third act, to mix a metaphor) perspective clouds veracity. In the real world, with the odds stacked against you and an ill spouse backing you, I think 99.9 percent of professionals would take the universe’s hint and gracefully go where needed rather than tenaciously doing battle with the powers that be. A real-life Katherine would have chosen to spend golden years with her beloved husband rather than squander his remaining days and nights engaged in the relentless, fickle, faithless world of network TV.
That observation aside, I left heartened and happy. I liked that Molly wrote an essay to start her journey toward her dream job. I liked that the comedy writers turned out to be rather sweet and nonthreatening nerds and not toxically masculine snots. I liked the acknowledgment — from a surprising character — that people aren’t perfect and that to be friends and coexist, we must tolerate. I liked seeing St. Marks Theater in a movie. I liked pretty much everything Emma Thompson did.
We need movies like this: kind and upbeat. We need comedies that don’t rely on cruelty and snark, we need to see positive images of minorities and women in positions of power so this concept can be normalized and accepted, we need stories of redemption because hope is infectious.