Late Night is a glossy, well put together comedy, but it’s slick Hollywood outer shell shouldn’t be mistaken for conventionality. Mindy Kaling’s signature quirky humour, and the underlying commentary about minorities working in the entertainment industry, keep the film fresh and relevant.
Emma Thompson plays Katherine Newbury, the host of a late night talk show that is on the brink of being cancelled as a result of ratings that have been on the decline for years. Looking over her group of white male show writers, Katherine decides to hire a female writer, in the hope of re-invigorating her dated show. That woman is Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), who may be inexperienced, but is full of drive and ambition. Molly has to work twice as hard as everyone else to prove herself to be more than just a ‘minority hire’ in a male dominated work environment, plus learn to connect with her hostile boss, Katherine.
Kaling is brilliant as newbie Molly, as she walks into the writing room, cupcakes in hand, she has all of the wide-eyed wonder and excitement of a kid at Disneyland. A total fan-girl of the show, there is some hilarious interactions between the two leading ladies with Molly constantly vying for Katherine’s affections, treating her more like a celebrity than a boss.
Emma Thompson is made for her role, pulling off the talk show host persona with such ease. Dressed in her Ellen Degeneres inspired pant suit, and closing the show with her signature send off, it is entirely believable that this could be Thompson’s own talk show. Her character has a dry British sense of humour, that is built upon during the film when Molly introduces a more topical and political angle to her quips.
However it isn’t all laughs. Scenes between Katherine and her sick husband Walter (John Lithgow) have genuine emotional depth, giving this hard character a softer more human side. It is because of these touching moments that a certain degree of empathy is generated for Katherine, and you find yourself rooting for her shows success, despite her icy, intimidating exterior.
‘The Devil Wears Prada’ of talk shows, Late Night is a whole lot of fun. The personalities of Molly and Katherine couldn’t be more contrasting, which makes their pairing all the more entertaining. There is great back-and-forth between Kaling and Thompson, and the two share a brilliant dynamic. Their characters may be separated by age, class and culture, but they truly are united by comedy.