The Late Show (1977) / Mystery-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for language and violence (probably PG-13 today)
Running Time: 94 min.
Cast: Art Carney, Lily Tomlin, Bill Macy, Eugene Roche, Joanna Cassidy, John Considine
Director: Robert Benton
Screenplay: Robert Benton
Review published October 5, 2005
Art Carney (Going in Style, Last Action Hero) plays Los Angeles detective Ira Wells, a man entering his 60s with health issues and a lack of a personal life, retirement seeming like not a bad thing when a fellow gumshoe gets iced while on the job. However, Ira is determined to find the man that did it, and to do that, he is hired by the woman that his friend was working for, a new age hippie named Margo (Tomlin, Nine to Five), who just wants her kidnapped cat back. The leads take him through an assorted cast of oddball characters, each with their own troubles and criminal histories, and none of them particularly fond of a private dick nosing around their business.
The Late Show is a likeable detective mystery, definitely scoring most of its points on the charm of its stars and intentionally lackadaisical storyline. It's lighthearted and romantic in its quiet way, and for those that like a breezy little mystery with interesting characters and some funny moments, this one will fit the bill when you're exactly in that kind of mood.
Carney and Tomlin are fun to watch, and the cast of character actors bring their respective roles to life. Benton's (Twilight, Kramer vs. Kramer) direction is suitably understated, but it's in his characterizations that he excels, so much so that even when there isn't a great deal going in in terms of solving the mystery, it's still pleasant to watch. Benton would receive an Oscar nomination for his snappy script.
The Late Show is a worthwhile film, but viewers will be wildly mixed in their feelings about it all, some calling it a classic mystery with real characters, while others will probably find the storyline and mystery not particularly interesting enough to pay strict attention to. Fans of old school detective yarns will be particularly fond of it.
©2005 Vince Leo