Sunday, June 23, 2019

Movie Review: "Late Night" (2019)

Director: Nisha Ganatra
Year: 2019
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

The host of a long-running late night talk show is being forced off the air by studio executives, but a former chemical plant employee with little comedy experience who has been brought in as a diversity hire may prove she can provide the new perspective the show needs to save it.

Emma Thompson talks to her all male writing staff in the writer's room in the 2019 film Late Night
"Be careful showing them who you are. Once you turn that switch on, you can never turn it off." (Image Source)
Do you ever wonder why so many late night talk shows have such a homogeneous look and feel?  "Late Night" gives an inside look as to why that might be the case. This film is directed by Nisha Ganatra, who is known for directing movies like "Chutney Popcorn" and "Cake." The screenplay is written by the film's star Mindy Kaling, who was a writer on "The Office," as well as her own show "The Mindy Project." Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is the host of a long-running late night talk show and is one of the only women to hold this position for as long as she has. When one of her writers has the audacity to ask for a raise because his wife just had a baby, she fires him and asks her producer (Denis O'Hare) to hire a female writer to replace him since her writing staff is entirely comprised of university educated white men. Her producer winds up hiring Molly (Kaling), who went to community college, has little writing experience, and whose previous employment was at a chemical factory. Though Molly struggles to get respect from Katherine and her fellow writers, her blunt attitude and different perspective on life may wind up being the key ingredient the show needs to move it in the right direction.
Movie still featuring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson hugging at a party surrounded by paparazzi in the movie Late Night
"They can't replace you if everyone loves you." (Image Source)
"Late Night" takes a look at a pervasive problem that exists within most industries around the world: a lack of diversity, not only on the silver screen but behind the scenes as well. It also shows how nepotism plays a significant role in becoming a Hollywood success story. It isn't about what you know, but who you know that matters. An abundance of racism, sexism, and ageism and an absence of diversity leads shows, movies, and other forms of entertainment to cater to one specific point of view and offers just one perspective. Sounds dull, right? If "Late Night" was only about delivering this message without any added entertainment value, it probably wouldn't have made for a successful film. Luckily, it also happens to be exceedingly funny, brilliantly acted, surprisingly emotional, and charming to boot. Emma Thompson is fantastic as Katherine, a hard-nosed talk show host who is loved by the public but feared by those on her staff. She has a reputation for being mean-spirited and ruthless to her employees, most of whom have worked for her for years but are merely nameless faces to her. Through all of her tantrums and admonishments, we somehow still want to root for Katherine and want her show to succeed. Being the veteran that she is, Thompson was the perfect choice for this role. Few could have pulled off what she did because it's a hard trick to make audiences care about an insufferable boss like her. Mindy Kaling is also terrific as a wide-eyed, earnest new writer desperate to please those around her. Her anxiety about pleasing people leads to a lot of awkward moments of cringe comedy, but Kaling is quick to deliver pointed-but-witty comebacks that help her slowly gain the confidence she needs to hold her own in the writer's room. Kaling has been delivering these quippy retorts throughout her career on screen, and she definitely includes them in her work as a writer. We have little doubt that Kaling is drawing from her real-life experiences as a woman of color working in Hollywood. We're sure that, much like her character here, she has been seen as little more than a diversity hire who "took a man's spot" or "kept a friend or family member from getting a job." It's clear to us based on this screenplay that she has been forced to prove herself time and time again despite being the funniest person in the room. These moments of personal truths make the film feel that much more realistic.
Reid Scott and Mindy Kaling smile backstage while producing a television show in Late Night, the latest movie from Amazon Studios
"I'd rather be a diversity hire than a nepotism hire." (Image Source)
"Late Night" is super funny, immensely relatable, and adds to a desperately needed (but slowly changing!) conversation about diversity in Hollywood/in the workplace. It's always a treat to watch Emma Thompson perform. Mindy Kaling's writing is refreshing, urgent, and poignant, and we can't wait to see what she does next.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.4/10
RT Rating: ~79%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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