Movie Review Monday: Late Night
We are diverting from the typical blockbuster release this week to review a new comedic drama from Amazon Studios. Late Night is written by Mindy Kaling and directed by Nisha Ganatra. The film follows a female late-night talk show host who teams up with a new writer to try to save her show. It stars the illustrious Emma Thompson as host Katherine Newbury, and it co-stars Mindy Kaling as a new writer, Molly Patel. The film’s cast also includes John Lithgow, Hugh Dancy, Reid Scott, Max Casella, Denis O’Hare, Amy Ryan, and Ike Barinholtz among others.
Katherine Newbury is a talented late-night talk show host and has been at the top of the industry for over twenty years. While she recently received a comedy award for her work, Katherine fires one of her writing staff and is quickly accused of being a woman who hates women. She has her staff impulsively hire Molly Patel, a chemical plant efficiency expert who dreams of writing comedy, as a result. As Molly is hired, Katherine is also faced with the criticism that her show has become complacent and does not connect anymore with the public. Katherine is informed by the network that this will be the last season of her show with the intention of a younger host replacing her. When Katherine is faced with that reality, she rallies her writing team to help her try to save the show, but it will not be an easy task.
Late Night is as hilarious as the previews promise, and it is a charming story. At its heart, the story is about two unlikely people who challenge one another and cause each other to grow in the process. The humor is sharp, and the film showcases problems in the entertainment industry in addition to having the characters discuss them. It jokes about the presence of women in entertainment, especially women above a certain age, and it also jokes about white privilege in the workplace. It touches on the line that hosts tread between having a persona and revealing portions of their true selves, which I believe that all people can identify with even if they are not famous. It’s also a story about complacency and the consequences of staying there. Late Night leaves a lot to think about while also providing a hilariously entertaining story about one woman scared of losing all she’s known and another woman bravely stepping out into something new.
The story pieces are good, but it is the characters and performances that make the story come alive. Kaling has mentioned that she envisioned Thompson in this role in the writing process, and the part fits her perfectly. Thompson shines as this hard, witty, and intelligent woman who is a complete force of nature. Kaling brings a lot of heart and humanity to the story as Molly, and both of these women are complicated, well-written characters. John Lithgow’s role is limited, but he still stands out as this rock in Katherine’s life. Reid Scott is understatedly funny and shines as the guy who proves that his name might have gotten him the job but his talent keeps him there. Denis O’Hare hits his comedic timing perfectly as he tries to keep the peace between Katherine and the writers, and honestly, all of the supporting characters add a little something special to the story.
At the end of the day, Late Night is a really charming comedic drama with some great performances. Emma Thompson shines in this role, and I will forever laugh at her assigning numbers to her writing staff instead of learning their names. This is also Mindy Kaling at her best, proving her comedic chops not just through her performance but also through this hilarious script she has written. This depiction of late night television showcases the process from writing to the live performance while also poking fun at the entire entertainment industry. Honest and funny, it is a joy to watch and inserts some timely commentary through it all. I found this movie extremely endearing and enjoyable, and I would not rule out the possibility that Late Night might end up sneaking onto my top ten list for the year.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.