The Late Show is one of the most underrated films of all time. It's somewhat convoluted detective plot has raised comparisons to Chinatown, which is both unfair and unfortunate. This is a film that stands out on its own.
The acting is generally very good, and the performances by the leads are particularly strong. Dialogue which might have seemed forced or corny with less assured actors is believable and often funny here. Art Carney and Lily Tomlin are fun to watch as a bickering detective duo brought together as much by mutual loneliness as by anything the plot throws at them. Both are able to keep their characters interesting without overdoing it. It would have been especially easy for Ms. Tomlin to go over the top with her depiction of the rather flighty Margo, but she manages to balance her character's peculiarities and make it look effortless.
Robert Benton received an academy award nomination for his screenplay, but he really deserved more recognition for directing a film in which he gets the mood just right, and trusts his cast to do their jobs well. This was no mean feat for a work that needs to be film noir with some comic timing.
I saw this film when it first came out nearly 30 years ago, and then watched it again recently. At a time when so many films rely on computer generated images, and plots that seem dreamed up by marketing departments, it was refreshing to rediscover a film that relies on strong direction, and outstanding acting.
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