TL;DR – It has strong characters, a great story, and some of the best laughs so far this year while still having substance behind it.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Well, 2019 has not been the best year for comedy, with very few films getting that double goal of being both funny but also having some substance to it. However, when I walked into Late Night I was more than a little optimistic about its prospects. That is because the writer and star Mindy Kaling is an amazing comedian and Emma Thompson is always bringing her A-game. Well, as I walked out it was nice to realise that I was able to get at least something right this year.
So to set the scene, Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is the first-ever female host of a late-night talk show and has been a mainstay of the late-night world for decades. She has won multiple Emmys and awards but the show has stagnated over the last couple of years and her new boss Caroline Morton (Amy Ryan) is looking to shake things up with a replacement host. Meanwhile, Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling) works at a chemical plant and uses the plant’s connections to interview for a job she has always wanted as a writer at a late-night comedy show. Her interview went poorly, but Katherine now needs to shake things up and well this might be it.
are a lot of ways that you can help sell a comedy scenario and for Late Night they do it through the rapport
between the characters which lays a really strong foundation for the show. The
banter between Molly and Katherine is some of the best I have seen all year, especially
as Molly becomes more confident and starts standing up for herself more as the
film goes one. Part of this is, of course, the script, but also Mindy and Emma
are two phenomenal actors and it shows every minute they are on the screen. The
same can be said of the supporting cast who are all there even when some of
them are mostly there to be the punchline of jokes. For me, the stand out here
is John Lithgow who just pulls at all my heartstrings in his scenes.
The setting for the film is a really interesting one because it is one that I think a lot of people are aware of but one that they don’t know very well. Indeed, the film is in a lot of ways a crash course in live-TV in a way I have not seen since maybe 30 Rock. Well, in this case, less a writers room and more a deeply dysfunctional writers room where there has been a disconnect between the writers and the host for years. A lot of the comedy comes from both sides trying to fix that disconnect without much care and it goes about as well as you can expect.
of the things I liked is how multi-faceted all the characters are. Emma could
have played Katherine Newbury as a one-note mean boss character, but she is
much more than that. She is a complex character that has flaws and redeeming features,
also she gets to say wanker a lot so that is always fun. This extends to most
of that cast and is something that gives the movie more depth than it otherwise
would have. I think part of this is because Mindy has worked in writer’s rooms
so she is able to nail that dynamic, but also that she is really good at
creating characters that are complex and engaging. It was also really
interesting to see the film play on some of those romantic movie tropes in an entirely
In the end, do we recommend Late Night? Yes, yes we do. It has strong characters, a great story, and some of the best laughs so far this year while still having substance behind it. That is a rare combination these days, so I will enjoy it when I see it.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Late Night
Directed by – Nisha Ganatra
Written by – Mindy Kaling
Music by – Lesley Barber
Cinematography by – Matthew Clark
Edited by – Eleanor Infante
Production/Distribution Companies – FilmNation Entertainment, 30West, Imperative Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment, Kaling International & Amazon Studios
Starring – Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, Hugh Dancy, Reid Scott, Amy Ryan, John Lithgow, Denis O’Hare, Max Casella, Paul Walter Hauser, John Early, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Ike Barinholtz, Annaleigh Ashford, Halston Sage & Marc Kudisch with Seth Meyers, Bill Maher & Jake Tapper
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: 14A; Germany: 0; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R