By Marc S. Sanders

Oprah Winfrey has a big head.

I don’t mean a big head as in a large ego. I mean Oprah Winfrey has a BIG HEAD. So BIG that I caught every sprinkle of glitter in her eyebrows and lipstick that it looked like it came out of the discount basket at Justice For Girls. Why do I focus on this first and foremost? Well…because that is about where the scope of imagination stops in Ava DuVernay’s direction of A Wrinkle In Time.

Remember the first time you saw The Wizard of Oz? Remember when Dorothy walks out of her monochromatic home and into the brightly lit Munchkinland? Judy Garland walked cautiously. Spoke carefully (“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”) There was a reaction to all of the grandeur and strangeness. Now, over 82 years later, many fantasies on film refuse to take inspiration from that timeless cinematic moment. A Wrinkle In Time definitely doesn’t.

In Duvaraney’s interpretation, Reese Witherspoon, dressed in a white king size bedsheet with hideously bright orange hair can just appear in the living room of a home and no one has nary a response to the unusual. There is neither panic, nor a “wow,” not an eye bulge, not a large swallow of gulp. Nothing. The protagonist, Meg, and her mother just say who are you (actually I’m not sure they even said that), and Reese puts on her over exaggerated smile and cheerful vocal inflection and speaks in some kind limerick dialogue. She walks out the front door, disappears into the night, and no one says anything; no one ponders anything. There is no imagination in the filmmaking here, nor in the scriptwriting. This is a fantasy, right?

Mindy Kaling is another fantasy character in garish makeup and costume. She quotes expressions from various poets and artists from history. Why? I don’t know. What does she lend to Meg’s mission? Yawn!!!! Nothing.

Zach Galifianakis accepted the role of another weird character that Johnny Depp probably turned down, and would have likely been offered to Robin Williams had he still been alive. Zach has nothing to say either.

Meg has a little brother named Charles Wallace. I know this because the script hammers away this kid’s name over and over again. Charles Wallace. Charles Wallace. CHARLES WALLACE!!!!! Not just Charles. This kid is always addressed as CHARLES WALLACE!!!! There’s a drinking game in the making. Give the movie 15 minutes and I promise you, you will be heavily intoxicated after hearing CHARLES WALLACE again and again and AGAIN!!!!

All of these claims go back to my one main, sole issue with this film. A complete lack of imagination and awareness of its fantasy.

DuVernay films Oprah as a towering 20 foot presence (literally) and fills in every void of space on the screen with her head. “CHARLES WALLACE” is about all Meg says to her little brother; there’s no sibling connection. Lastly, the most glaring error, is there is no reaction to the wonder of this fantasy. Were any of the actors informed there would be more to the green screens they were filming in front of?

So, it’s a nay for me. If you are going to do a fantasy make sure everyone in the production gets the memo please.

Oh yeah, Meg is on a mission to find her missing father in the universe of time or something like that. Yeah. That whole thing never mattered much to me. It didn’t really seem to matter much to Meg either.


by Miguel E. Rodriguez

Director: Nisha Ganatra
Cast: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow
My Rating: 7/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 79% Certified Fresh

PLOT: After being accused of hating women, the female host (Thompson) of a popular late-night talk show makes a “diversity hire” for the writer’s room: Molly Patel (Kaling), whose straight-talking instincts put her at odds with her boss and co-writers.

On the whole, Late Night is like the best movie Judd Apatow hasn’t made yet.  It’s funny (not explosively funny, but pointedly funny), smart, and actually has something relevant to say about a host of topics, but mostly it’s about women: women in the workplace, in Hollywood, in positions of power, in traditionally male-dominated industries, even women and sexual indiscretions.

Mindy Kaling (who also wrote the screenplay) plays Molly Patel, a chemical plant worker who lands an interview for a writing job at one of the most popular (fictional) late-night shows on television, and also the only one hosted by a woman: Katherine Newbury, played with style and wit by Emma Thompson.

(For the record, I could watch Emma Thompson read the phone book, and I would say that was also done with style and wit, and I’d probably be right.  But moving on…)

Molly’s interview is perfectly timed, because Katherine desperately needs a “diversity hire” after she is accused of hating women.  The fact that her writer’s room consists of all white men does not help her case, so Molly is hired more or less on the spot.  IMDb tells me that Mindy Kaling once interned for the Conan show, so I personally have no idea how accurate the characterizations are of these writers, but I got the feeling they were pretty spot on.  For example, when she’s first introduced to the room, a couple of the guys immediately ask her for sandwiches and coffee.  In another twist, she uses the ladies room, only to discover that, since there are so few women employed there, all the male writers use the ladies room as well…but only when “duty” calls. (…he said as he chuckled to himself.)

We have the makings of what could have been a great comedy.  As it is, we have a pretty good comedy.

My issues are at the screenplay level.  The story is awesome, the characters are awesome, and the screenplay does make some sharp criticisms of the current status quo.  (The best and funniest scene occurs when Katherine takes to the streets, a la Conan or Jimmy Fallon, and does a “White Savior” bit; it sounds terribly racist when I write it out like that, but I assure you, it’s hilarious and not a bit racist.)  But…there were times when I thought the screenplay was pulling its punches.

For example, there’s a moment when Katherine decides to deliver a politically charged joke in her monologue (it’s a doozy, by the way).  Given the plot developments by that time, I thought there would be more of that kind of material later on.  But there isn’t.  Alas.

There are lots of moments like that, when the screenplay felt like it was building to some kind of climactic, powerfully-written dialogue or monologue that would really lay into the characters and the audience, like an Aaron Sorkin script, or even like a comedy from earlier this year, Long Shot.  But it never QUITE happens.

(Okay, there IS one scene that does deliver a great payoff…it’s played out on an empty stage between two of the main characters, and it has as much heartfelt emotion and drama as any Merchant Ivory film.)

I liked this movie.  I felt like there was MORE that could have been said and done with this material that could have elevated it even more. But it is ultimately a feel-good movie that has some very funny scenes and has a lot to say. 


By Marc S. Sanders

Mindy Kaling is a terrific writer. I first discovered her on The Office, where she scripted many of the best episodes as well as performed in front of the camera. She’s hilarious. She wrote and produced the film Late Night from 2019, and while I think it’s incredibly smart with ideas on prominent female identities and the status quo of race and gender within a fictional late night television industry, it does not forgive itself for wrapping up its ending in a pretty, pink bow.

Emma Thompson is fierce as Katherine Newberry, a late night network tv host approaching 30 years in the business. She’s become a staple for the 11:30 slot, even if she hasn’t kept up with the times of Twitter and You Tube. The network is ready to cut ties with her as she has become too outdated with her material, the guests she has on, and whatever semblance of a routine she’s awarded from her team of writers, that are all white males that might not have outgrown their fraternity years but only now complain about their miserable married or single lives. It’s brought to Katherine’s attention that she doesn’t like women. To mix it up, she demands her office manager hire a woman, any woman, immediately.

Enter Mindy Kaling, as Molly Patel, with zero experience in writing or television who leaves her job at a chemical plant. Like all office films that always seem to take place in New York, the new person does not get on great with the boss, endures some humiliation, cries, but then gets a brave epiphany that catches the boss’ attention out of nowhere. Molly writes a funny pro choice/anti Republican joke for Katherine’s monologue. It eventually goes over swimmingly.

A well acted side story occurs when we get to see some pains that Katherine has while living with her loving husband, Walter, played by John Lithgow, who has Parkinson’s disease. They have some outstanding scenes together. So while the Katherine Newberry with the tough exterior works her writing team to the bone to save her reputation and show, she is also dealing with a terribly sad domestic life. Unfortunately, a one time affair that she had with a writer unnecessarily creeps its way into the film. When it becomes material for public tabloid, her show is all but dead. Now by and large, Late Night is a comedy, so how do you think this film will end? Happily of course.

I don’t take issue with a happy ending. I love them, and it’s often why I go to the movies to escape. However, this is the cutthroat business of television. Shows get cancelled frequently. Kaling’s script even demonstrates that with the network president. As well, Katherine’s demeanor demonstrates this when she fires a writer simply for asking for a raise and to spend more time with his kid. Throw in a couple of lines, however, give a monologue from the heart for your audience and suddenly the show is saved! I wish it would work this way but I doubt it really does.

Another angle the film explores is Molly as an Indian American woman intruding upon a white male dominated occupation. The story had me convinced that she overcomes these demographic obstacles. I bought it. What was hard to accept was the “one year later” epilogue where the show’s staff is made up of every variation of gender and race demographic imaginable with Thompson’s character doing a quick walk through the office to the studio. Every desk is occupied by a different looking person. How touching…and unconvincing. Again, I wish it was that easy to flip a perspective on an office staff, in just one year. Yet I don’t think it’s all that simple. This is where Kaling’s script is pandering way too much.

The performances are excellent. Kaling and Thompson have great scenes together. Lithgow with Thompson as well. Following the reveal of the affair, there’s a magnificent scene between them where they come to a resolve. Only, I think this moment belongs in another film. The affair storyline is not correlated enough to the rest of the picture. I would have abandoned it altogether and simply focus on Katherine, Molly and Walter’s struggles; surviving the business, entering the business and living with illness. The affair intrudes on the last act of the film and as soon as it bleeds, Kaling’s script patches it up too neatly. Thus, we get a happy ending that just doesn’t feel very authentic.

Mindy Kaling needs to work even further. I think she’s one of the brightest writers I know of today. She writes what she knows; about working in television and being an Indian American woman thereby bringing those facts about her background as new strengths for storylines. She only now has to be careful about not patching up the conflicts she masterfully creates with simply a cherry on top. She might turn the APPLAUSE sign on for her audiences, but that is not necessarily going to get the crowd on their feet and clapping.