It’s no secret that I am a long time fan of everything Mindy Kaling. It’s also no secret that everyone with a brain is a fan of Emma Thompson. So I’ve basically been amped for Late Night from the moment it was first announced and it did not disappoint.
Emma Thompson plays Katherine Newbury, a late night talk show host of over 20 years who finds out she is going to be pushed out of the show she created and built.
In an effort to shake things up, she hires outside of her comfort zone (white men) and hires Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), an Indian-American woman whose experience in comedy consists of making jokes over the intercom at the power plant where she works.
Though at the beginning, Katherine disregards longtime fan Molly’s ideas, the two eventually bond and the show transforms back into a ratings hit.
Thompson and Kaling definitely carry the movie, and it’s enjoyable to watch a film with two well written female leads who have flaws and yet are still extremely likable. John Lithgow is delightful and sympathetic as Katherine’s husband and their relationship is honest and heartwarming, even if problematic.
Patel’s romantic story line tie up at the end of the film fell flat for me, it seems completely unnecessary and, though I called it early on (I mean, it is a Hollywood comedy) it didn’t make sense for the characters or the story.
In typical Kaling fashion the comedic film doesn’t shy away from tougher topics, broaching sexism, racism, internalised misogyny and even #metoo in the space of only 102 minutes. It never feels too heavy or preachy though, always coming back to the lighter moments and the connection between the two protagonists.
Director Nisha Ganatra also keeps the tone light and fun and Ganatra and Kaling make a stellar combo I hope to see more work from. There’s a real joy in watching work about women, made by women that is entertaining but doesn’t shy away from the inevitable politics of being a woman, especially a woman of colour. If this is the way comedy movies are headed – count me in!
– Lucy Noonan