Late Night

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Emma Thompson in Late Night.
Emma Thompson in Late Night.
Photo: M-Net


3/5 Stars


After almost 30 years, a groundbreaking talk-show host suspects she may soon be losing her coveted seat on late-night television unless she manages a game-changing transformation. Katherine Newbury is 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. But, when ratings plummet and she is accused of being a "woman who hates women,"  Katherine puts gender equality on her to-do list and impulsively hires Molly Patel, a chemical plant efficiency expert from suburban Pennsylvania, as the first and only female on her writing staff.


Witty, packed with political punch and with a female lead reminding you of both Kelly Kapoor’s hilarity and Mindy Lahiri’s self-deprecating charm, if you enjoyed watching The Office and The Mindy Project, chances are you’re going to love Late Night, written by and starring Mindy Kaling.

The dramedy follows the story of a late-night talk show host Katherine Newbury, played by Emma Thompson, whose life gets turned upside down when she finds out her network is planning to replace her. In order to become irreplaceable, she realises she needs to remain relevant – even ‘woke’, as they say – so she hires her first female staff writer Molly Patel, played by Mindy Kaling. Molly also happens to be the one and only person of colour in the office, and unlike her colleagues, is still starry-eyed and brave – the kind of hopeful you usually see at the beginning of any new relationship.

With a premise like this, every second line in the film is a direct pitchfork to the patriarchy, and when it’s not, in the witty way of Kaling, it manages to shift the dialogue so as to give the white male the privilege of saying whatever he so pleases, only to have him fall flat on his face when he assumes the only woman of colour in the office must be there to take his lunch order.

The focus is very much on white, male privilege – both how it dominates as well as how completely fragile it can be when it feels threatened by a woman in the workplace, or being in the sudden presence of Emma Thompson’s terrifying character – perhaps it’s her blazer and slicked-back hair that makes her less threatening, worthy of their respect – signalled only by the faint sound of her footsteps and a panicked man’s voice calling out, “She’s coming...”

With that, this movie isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Some may not find the jokes all that funny; others may find the satire too glaringly obvious. And you can more or less predict how everything will play out in the end.

That being said, for me, that didn’t make the film any less enjoyable.

Emma Thompson’s portrayal of the cold and confident talk show host made me quake in my boots, while Mindy Kaling perfectly delivered the ever-ambitious and always charming girl who never fails to see the world through rose-coloured glasses.

From the very first one-liner to the last, I was in stitches. But I expected as much from a film written by a comedian about a comedian with a passion for writing comedy.

From the crew and cast to the daring political commentary, everything falls into place with this movie being as ‘woke’ as it is – and not just for the reference to men making calls on women’s reproductive rights and the mention of the #MeToo movement. While it may be a coincidence, at the time of the movie's release Lilly Singh became the first woman to host a late-night network television show in more than 30 years. She also happens to be the first South Asian and openly queer woman to ever host a talk show on a major network. Mindy Kaling was among her very first guests on A Little Late With Lilly Singh.

Like the wit, charm and satirical laughs in the film, the serendipity of it all is hard to miss but makes it all the more enjoyable to see.

Glaringly obvious or not Late Night comes together almost like a romantic comedy of sorts, where everything, and everyone, is just meant to be.


Late Night airs Sunday at 20:05 on M-Net (DStv 101) 


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