Late night television has been on somewhat of a decline lately. While the ratings have been solid thanks to any given show’s devoted fans, anyone will say that the quality isn’t what it used to be. Most people will talk crap about the talk shows being “too political”, acting like they just started talking politics within the last three years because they think it’s cool.
In the movie Late Night, Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson)’s talk show has been on a decline for ten years, despite being the first (and only) woman to ever have a late night program running for a long time. She has her followers, yes, but even her husband is quick to say that the show isn’t what it used to be. Her writing is stale and lacks diversity, and her writing staff of all white men reflects that. Enter Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), an Indian chemical plant worker who has a natural knack for comedy and is hired on the writing staff initially to meet a diversity quota.
Based on the setup alone, I knew a lot of the beats that Late Night was going to hit within its story. The two women don’t get along at first but at the end they realize that they need each other. The story on paper doesn’t do anything new with its formula. The dialogue, on the other hand, is a different story. It’s light, breezy and has something to say about women of color in the workplace, thanks to what I can only imagine is Mindy Kaling’s own experiences of being a woman of color in Hollywood.
I’ll be honest and say I’m not a fan of Kaling. I didn’t watch The Mindy Project when it was on and she was usually one of my least favorite characters on The Office. In the movie, she’s very ambitious and wants to further herself in the world of comedy beyond telling jokes at the chemical plant. Two time Oscar winner Emma Thompson plays the talk show host Newbury, a stone cold bitch who, at one point, is described as a “woman who hates women”. I haven’t seen much of Thompson’s work but I was surprised at her comedic timing.
The movie works best when either woman is on screen, and the movie’s high points are when both of them are together. I never in my life would’ve guessed this combination would work as well as it did. It reminds me of a movie that came out earlier this year called Long Shot, that also had an unlikely duo in the form of Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron.
Late Night offers a fine balance of comedy and drama within the workplace, thanks to the chemistry between Kaling and Thompson. Clocking in at 102 minutes, the movie doesn’t overstay its welcome and manages to make contemporary commentary about women and people of color in a workforce dominated by white men. Even if you know where the story goes just by looking at the trailer, I would still recommend the movie based on the strength of its performances and dialogue alone.
Late Night is now in theaters worldwide.