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'Late Night': Funny Business

By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires Film Critic
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Somewhere between my wild youth and the acquiescence to middle-class mediocrity if not respectability, there was my bachelor pad era. The Cohens, a childless couple who had no designs on a single-family home until they inherited one, had relinquished their pink apartment on Pingry Place. And thus, after a bribe, unbeknownst to me, from my Mom to the super, the digs were mine. 
I later learned that said financial inducement was followed by regular sub-rosa gratuities in return for information on yours truly's comings and goings. In Mom's defense, I think she had a FISA warrant. And yes, this indulgent preamble has everything to do with director Nisha Ganatra's smartly funny "Late Night."
You see, my best friend Bob and I spent the better part of several weeks in the newly acquired apartment, aided by the creativity-stimulating sources of the day, arduously trying to figure out how best to transform the space from Cohen Pink to Goldberger, well, just what? Finishing second in the sweepstakes was an Italian restaurant motif, wherein several square tables with red checkered table cloths would be complemented by walls adorned in murals depicting the food-famous landscapes of Tuscany. The thinking was that since I had no etchings to show should a
young lady wish to visit my chambers for an après-theater glass of Chianti, my bistro would surely prove an appropriately adequate conversation piece.
But then, spurred by the late-night TV format Johnny Carson was each evening shaping into an iconic form of Americana right before our eyes, it occurred to us: What better conversation piece than a talk show set? Simple enough: a desk, a few comfortable chairs and a microphone or two.
To digress now, because it is my theory that the best parts of literature are penned in smatterings of digression, the essence of the late-night talk show is much more than what is visible to the drowsy eye. It is about the magic that can exist within the art of conversation. And in "Late Night," Emma Thompson as TV host Katherine Newbury, a practitioner in that black art, illustriously takes us behind the smoke and mirrors of keeping folks up past their bedtime.
Of course it's only dramatically proper that we meet her at a watershed that practically every famous showbiz person fears will one day rear its ugly head. Ratings have been steadily plummeting and Katherine's boss, Caroline, portrayed with Angel of Death resolve by Amy Ryan, has informed that this is our girl's last season behind the desk. Oh, my. What's a selfish egotist, albeit a very talented, selfish egotist, who cares only about her show and her recently ailing husband, superbly portrayed by John Lithgow, to do? 
Well, the short answer is to hire your first female writer in the personage of Mindy Kaling's Molly Patel and hopefully get a new, young perspective on things that'll once again make you relevant to the Great Unwashed.
It only follows since this movie features Emma Thompson, a thespic treasure who rarely appears in films that don't get into the important grist of something or other, that she and co-star Kaling regale us with a pertinently entertaining update on the women's struggle for equal rights. The inherently fair perspective of it all is that Katherine, prior to hiring a female writer, and even then solely as a token gesture, hadn't given it a moment's thought that all her writers were men.
Business was business, and fact was, up until push came to shove, she rarely met with her writers, let alone made an effort to learn their names.
Granted, the plot is rather predictable once the premise is established. Still, by this time we've developed a vested interest in both Katherine and Molly, and good form dictates that we see them through to what we hope will be a happy resolution. But hark, there's a bonus in Thompson's studious dissection of the media phenomenon known as the Late Night TV Host.
She personifies how it's about being able to connect to an adoring public with the seamless certainty of a Bluetooth pairing. And, placing a cherry atop the dramatic configurations, Thompson and Lithgow as the long dedicated couple convince us that true sentiment can flourish even in an environment fraught with cutthroats and charlatans.
Supplying a likeable counterbalance to Thompson's live wire, Kaling's Molly is at once sweet yet not without her own estimable ambitions. And, per job description, the gaggle of male writers who naturally must give the female novitiate a hard time, deliver a chorus-like stream of comedy relief.
The witty and informatively progressive "Late Night" proves a sociological microcosm of just one front — specifically, workplace equality — in the perennial war between the sexes. That it still rages on is to laugh, and then again, no laughing matter.
"Late Night," rated R, is an Amazon Studios release directed by Nisha Ganatra and stars Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling and John Lithgow. Running time: 102 minutes

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Retired North Adams Librarian Pens Book About Renovation

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The story of the modernization and expansion of the historic North Adams Public Library has been written by the library director who the led the project. 
"Preserving a Legacy: Building for the Future" was recently self-published by Marcia Gross, who was head of the library for the first decade of the century. 
"She was so heavily involved in the planning for the library and donated a substantial part of her professional life to the renovation and expansion," Richard Markham, former library trustee, said. "I think she wanted to tell that story."
Markham helped Gross with the book and is doing the marketing and press for her.
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