Late Night: Film Review

I love Mindy Kaling and I was a huge fan of her TV show The Mindy Project so I got very excited when I heard she was writing a feature film starring Emma Thompson! My expectations were naturally quite high for Late Night and it sadly fell short of them.

Thompson stars as late night talk show host Kathryn Newbury, whose show has been in decline for years as she is stubborn and determined not to bow to what’s popular, even if that means her show is becoming irrelevant. Her writing staff are all white males so she calls for a more diverse group, so, even though she has no professional experience, former chemical plant worker Molly (Kaling) is given a job. Molly ruffles feathers by pointing out what needs improving, but they soon listen to her suggestions when network boss Caroline (Amy Ryan) announces Newbury’s position is being taken over by younger, cruder comedian Daniel (Ike Barinholtz).

The best thing about this is the writing and the cast. Kaling is such a fantastic writer – she is warm, funny, charming and not afraid of using comedy to tackle issues such as race, white privilege, age (particularly in women), and diversity. This has a lot to say and it’s written very well. Late Night isn’t the out and out comedy I figured it to be – it is a drama with laughs thrown in and it actually takes a serious turn towards the end thanks to a revelation about Newbury.

The cast, oh my, the cast. Thompson has never been more perfect for a role. Newbury was this funny comedian but now she’s a cold, crabby, jaded host who treats her workers like crap. She isn’t likeable in the beginning but the layers she’s built up over the years eventually peel away and we see who she is and how she became this way. Kaling plays a similar character to her one in The Mindy Project but that’s what she’s so good at. Molly is our eyes into that world and we are with her the whole way, wanting her to succeed.

There is an impressive list of support stars but I have to start with John Lithgow. I bloody love him and I always smile when I realised he’s in something. His character, Katherine’s sick husband Walter, is so sweet and supportive and he really tugs at your heartstrings. I also want to give a shout out to Ryan for being the no nonsense boss, Barinholtz for being an incredible douchebag, and Annaleigh Ashford, who is only in it for one scene but she was fabulous.

I love films that give us an inside glimpse at the making of TV shows, films, news programs etc (Morning Glory is a good example) so the concept of Late Night was appealing to me from the get go. The main theme is also one that I find very interesting – do you stick to your principles if your show is failing or accept you need to change things up and appeal to a popular audience? I enjoyed all the dialogue ruminating on this point.

The film is slightly too long – it feels longer than it is actually – and there aren’t many laugh out loud moments but it more than makes up for that with the cast and writing. There were honestly so many well observed jokes that take on the current political and social agenda that I think I need a rewatch. I had super high expectations for Late Night and it fell short slightly, but that doesn’t mean to say it’s not good.

In cinemas Friday 7th June

Rating: 4/5

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