The timely talk-show host comedy LATE NIGHT earns a double boost from being selected to headline the Toronto Inside Out Gay and Lesbian Film Festival’s Closing Night Gala as well as having the fortune to have Academy Award British actress Emma Thompson star as the legendary talk-show host Katherine Newbury.
The script has been widely publicized as being written by Indian comedian Mindy Kaling, one fo the most well known and respected TV and film personalities. In her script, she gets to offer her take on feminine and minority issues. Though her script is by no means perfect, it has good moments, is earnest and also occasionally quite funny.
The film centres on American talk-show host, British born Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), a pioneer in her field. The only woman ever to have a long-running program on late night, she keeps her writers’ room on a short leash ― and all male, and all white male at that. But when her ratings plummet and she finally realizes that she but not her show is going to be axed, she starts taking notice and action, and oddly enough, inappropriate action. She is accused of being a “woman who hates women,” Katherine puts gender equality on her to-do list and impulsively hires Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling herself), a chemical plant efficiency expert from suburban Pennsylvania, as the first and only female on her writing staff.
The film swings into Molly’s character. Molly is the underdog with lots of criticism but with few solutions. When Katherine fingers her out to express her views, she is upset that a newbie can find fault her but offer little in terms of answers,
When rumours begin swirling that Katherine is being replaced by a younger, hipper male host, Daniel Tennant (Ike Barinholtz), she demands that the writers make her funny and relevant again. This is when Molly makes her mark while running at the same times, loggerheads with Katherine. The film plays like a romantic comedy between Katherine and Molly, the two fighting and then respecting each other.
At its best, the script shows the strength of diversity and women at the work place. The success of Katherine in what is normally a male occupation says a lot. Most of the real late night talk show hosts at present are men – so networks should take notice. The Katherine character is fashioned a bit around the Ellen Degeneres personality and similarities (like Katherine’s remarks) exist. The restraint of putting a lid on a romantic subplot pays off too. There is a little romance brewing but just enough to make Molly a vulnerable character. The script shows the female crying a well. (Molly cries behind her desk in one scene after being humiliated by Katherine).
On the negative side, all the males are depicted as second class idiots. All of Katherine’s white males writers are bumbling no-brainers. The role of Katherine’s husband (John Lithgow) is over-written and over sympathetic. The males also cannot keep a decent relationship going.
Kaling’s script also seems over eager to please. It is clear enough that LATE NIGHT is supposed to be a feel-good movie but at times, when the music comes crescendo-ing over the dialogue to steer how the audience to feel, it all seems a bit too much.
Thompson delivers a winning performance, regardless and Kaling tries hard in her role which basically her film of her own.
LATE NIGHT is still entertaining despite its over eagerness to please, the film aided by Thompson’s and Kaling’s otherwise working chemistry.