Late Night (2019)

Late Night
Director: Nisha Ganatra
Writer: Mindy Kaling
Cast: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow, Hugh Dancy, Reid Scott, Denis O’Hare, Max Casella, Paul Walter Hauser, John Early, Luke Slattery, Ike Barinholtz, Marc Kudisch, Amy Ryan, Bill Maher, Seth Meyers
Seen on: 2.9.2019

Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is the only woman in the sea of late night hosts, but her success in dwindling. When it is pointed out that she only works with men, it’s the kind of thing that could be the last nail in the coffin of her career. So a woman is needed to make her all-white, all-male writer’s room a little more diverse. That woman is Molly (Mindy Kaling) who, knowing nothing of th reasons behind her employment at first, is overjoyed. And she brings along enough energy and enthusiasm to get things moving in the right direction for Katherine as well.

Late Night is no cinematic revelation, but it is very entertaining and it profits immensly from the fact that it is made by women of color who bring their perspective into the film in a much-needed way.

The film poster showing Molly (Mindy Kaling) leaning her head on Katherine's (Emma Thompson) shoulder. Molly is smiling, Katherine looks astonished.

Late Night is a whole lot of fun, but there is also a serious political message at its core, if not to say a mission. That means that the film does tend to get a little preachy here and there, especially towards the end (with the moral fall and rise of Katherine). But, well, if anybody’s here for listening to the gospel of (intersectional) feminism, it’s me. And that the film ends on a note of “once you’ve made it, you need to make sure you help other marginalized people make it, too” is particularly lovely.

That being said, it is a bit of a liberal feminism message – one that doesn’t so much question how the system works but rather who gets to succeed within the system – and I honestly shudder to think what kind of white feminist nonsense it would have devolved into if it hadn’t been women of color in key positions behind the camera. Because that gives the entire thing an intersectional bite (that is often very funny) it desperately needs to keep its critical potential.

Katherine (Emma Thompson) on the street, microphone in hand.

To be fair, the film is not a manifesto – above all, it sets out to entertain, and that it certainly does. Kaling and Thompson have great chemistry and both are fantastic on their own as well (though Thompson in particular). The film is fast-paced, well-made and simply very funny. But that is has more to say than just “let’s have a good time”, that really makes it worth your time.

Molly (Mindy Kaling) and her colleague Tom (Reid Scott) during the shoot of the show.

Summarizing: very good.

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