Cast: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow, Hugh Dancy
Director: Nisha Ganatra
2019 has honestly been a very strong year for comedies. Whether these are feel-good comedies like Fighting with My Family or raunchier ones like Booksmart, the spectrum has been pretty well-covered this year and for the most part the results have been good. Now it’s up to Late Night to carry the flame and not be the first comedic miss of the year. While not quite as strong as the other comedies, Late Night still finds it stride and should entertain most audiences. Aided in particular by a top-tier performance by Thompson, Late Night should be able to hold you over as a comedy you like until you find that one particular comedy that you love.
The film follows Katherine Newbury (Thompson), the only female late-night talk show host and someone who has built a career as a legend in the television industry. When her declining ratings threaten to get her show pulled off the air, she hires Molly Patel (Kaling), a chemical plant operator as a writer with no comedy background but a burning desire to turn the show into something special. While the two have their differences, they must work together to find a way to turn Katherine’s show around or they’ll both be out of a job. Thompson’s performance really ends up being the deciding factor into whether or not this movie is successful or not, and luckily Thompson is the absolute star of the show. I’ve heard her performance be compared to Meryl Streep’s in The Devil Wears Prada, and while I don’t think it’s that impressive, I see the reason for the comparison. Both played strong, cold-hearted, driven women and Thompson’s ability to combine these emotions with the comedic elements is something that is rarely seen in movies nowadays. She ends up with many of the best jokes in the movie and deserves them since she easily gives the best performance of the movie. The one weak area of the movie is that none of the jokes really stand out as something you will remember after you watch the movie. Think of your favorite comedies of all time, there’s at least one joke you think of that you show people when you explain why you like this movie so much. Late Night doesn’t have any real impactful jokes as most of them are either quick one-liners or they don’t reach the depth necessary to live outside of this movie. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a pretty funny movie, but I won’t be telling people about Molly’s hilarious scene or Katherine’s great joke because there isn’t one. Considering I’m a millennial, I’m the target demographic for this movie, and with the amount of content about female empowerment and diversity hires, I can imagine some baby boomer audiences having a heart attack after watching this movie. Late Night knows who it wants watching their movie and for what it’s worth, they do a good job of supporting that audience’s tastes, but anyone else might have a tough time enjoying this movie.
Overall, Thompson ends up saving Late Night and turns a pretty standard comedy into something interesting and special. The script isn’t the strongest I’ve seen from a comedy, but these actors make the most of it and use their natural charisma to lead it through its 102 minute runtime. If you’ve like Kaling in other movies, she brings her usual style of comedy to the movie and since she wrote the script for the film, most of the characters have this style too. While there may not be universal appeal for this movie, Late Night is one casting choice away from being a dud, but that casting choice was perfect and puts the movie exactly where it wants to be.
Overall Score: 7/10