Directed by Nisha Ganatra and written by star Mindy Kaling, Late Night is a backstage comedy about the unlikely relationship that forms between Molly (Kaling) and late night television talk show host Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson). Even though the dialogue is smart and downright hilarious at points, Late Night unfortunately fails to surpass the basic plot points of the workplace comedy. (DLH: 3/5)
Review by FF2 Associate Dayna Hagewood
When Quality Control Supervisor Molly (Mindy Kaling) wins an opportunity to meet a CEO through a program at her chemical plant, she marches to New York for her chance to convince late-night television host Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) that she deserves a spot at the writing table. Unfortunately, Molly quickly realizes that the experience does not play out as she planned. She gets hit with a full bag of garbage on her way in, overhears a conversation between a future coworker and his brother about nepotistic intentions, and realistically only gets the job because ever-intense Newbury is attempting to prove that she doesn’t hate working with women.
Nevertheless, Molly earns her seat at the writer’s table for the television show amidst a crew of immature men that spend more time drinking coffee than writing jokes for the show. Not only that, but the staff learns rather quickly that Newbury is soon to be replaced with a male host due to a network decision.
One of the most redeeming aspects of Late Night aside from the comedy is that it does an excellent job highlighting both Molly and Katherine’s lives. The two women are vastly different and clash in working style at every opportunity. We learn about their shortcomings and their dreams. Molly is innocent, idealistic, and willing to adapt whereas Katherine is stuck in her old ways (and horribly mean to everyone she comes across).
When Molly begins suggesting new ideas and plans to shake up the show, Katherine reluctantly begins to take her advice. The duo forms an unstoppable relationship that relies heavily on each other and remains at the forefront of the film regardless of frequent digressions involving other characters.
Unfortunately, even though the script contains many laugh-out-loud moments and features a powerful female duo, Late Night succumbs to many of the plot pitfalls of the standard workplace comedy. Nothing that happens is particularly surprising and with such a star-studded cast and so many relevant and timely jokes, it was a slight disappointment to see a standard structure and ending to Late Night. Molly’s relationships with her coworkers are also rather cliché and predictable.
The ultimate result is that Late Night supplies a bunch of great laughs and attempts to correct many issues in film and the workplace including diversity, gender, and age. However, it isn’t a particularly memorable film in that it follows a predictable schema. Even still, Late Night is a good light film to see with friends if you are looking for a well-written, female-focused flick that won’t concern you with a difficult (or particularly original) plot.
© Dayna Hagewood (6/12/2019) FF2 Media
Featured Photo: Molly and coworker Tom (played by Reid Scott).
Top Photo: Molly Patel, played by screenplay writer Mindy Kaling.
Middle Photo: Katherine Newbury, played by Emma Thompson.
Bottom Photo: Molly and Katherine pose for a photo at a dinner party.
Photo Credits: IMDB 2019
Does Late Night pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?
Absolutely. Katherine and Molly have many conversations about the industry and their plans to save the show. While there are certainly multiple men floating in and out of the picture, the two characters stand out as the stars of the show in one way or another.
Katherine also has multiple encounters with the new network president (Amy Ryan).