Late Night

I just got back from seeing Late Night and I enjoyed it! As it only came out in the UK yesterday (June 7th), I will be keeping this review spoiler-free.

The film focuses on Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling, who also wrote the film's screenplay), an Indian-American chemical plant efficiency expert, who is a life-long fan of Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), an iconic late night talk-show host. Katherine is the only woman who has ever achieved this feat. However, as Katherine finally faces the fact that her show's ratings have been declining over the past decade, one of her colleagues points out that its due to her phobia of hiring other women; her team of writers are all white middle-class men. She quickly hires Molly as a new writer.
But as Katherine and her writers struggle to breathe new life into her talk-show, Molly strives to prove that she's more than a diversity hire and has what it takes to give Katherine the unique, authentic voice she knows she has.

I loved the film's story; I thought it was so well-written. I first heard of Late Night via one of my favourite podcasts, The Guilty Feminist. In the latest episode, Deborah Francis-White interviews both Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling. Francis-White describes the film as being science-fiction as well as a comedy, because we still have yet to experience a world where a woman can be a successful late night talk-show host. That was what made the film so compelling to me and, in some ways, very inspiring. As a female film viewer, growing up I did find myself just accepting the fact that almost all film narratives followed a straight white man's story. So seeing a film in which a woman plays a powerful, successful, funny talk-show host was incredibly refreshing. To quote Oscar Wilde, "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life", so surely one method for bringing about social change is by proving to audiences that people on their screens who look just like them are capable of achieving just as much in life as their privileged white male counterparts.

Emma Thompson really made the film for me. Apparently Mindy Kaling wrote the role of Katherine specifically for her, as she had worked as a stand-up comedian in her 20s before fully transitioning to acting. She is intimidatingly powerful, while still being very likeable and hilarious. I loved the cut-throat put downs she used when talking to her writing staff and professional rivals. It reminded me a bit of The Devil Wears Prada. There were several moments where I laughed out loud during Late Night.

I do have a few criticisms, though. After Molly is hired and starts working with the writing team, her colleagues admit that they've never visited the talk-show's set, despite working there for decades. However, later on, Molly sneaks onto the set and watches a live recording with the audience. It seems a door leading onto the set is only down the hall from the writers' office. If it's that easy to access, why haven't any of the other writers tried sneaking in too?
The only other thing was that during the last fifteen minutes of the film, I found that the pacing started to drag. By that point I could predict how the film was going to end and so I found the ending a bit anti-climactic.

However, overall I had a fun time watching Late Night and I would definitely suggest watching it if you're in the mood for a fun comedy that goes against the Hollywood mould.


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