A Review of the Movie Late Night – Cultural Commentary and Some Heart
Cranky old TV host hires a bubbly young writer because she “hates women,” and some stuff happens as they learn from each other to be better people.
“Late Night” follows talk show host Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) who has Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling) hired as a female writer when she abruptly fires another writer for asking for a raise. Firing writers, it is established as something she does easily and often. She is your stereotypical hard-ass boss. She doesn’t have the patience for people who she deems lesser than her.
Director Nisha Ganatra does a decent job of taking a script, written by Mindy Kaling, that is a bit preachy and giving us a film we don’t hate. The movie has plenty of funny one-liners proving that Kaling clearly knows how to set-up a joke. Also, as an Indian woman in the entertainment industry, we can assume many of the situations in this film are taken from real-life experiences.
The supporting cast is a bit one-dimensional but well-acted including that of John Lithgow who plays Walter Lovell, the loving and supportive husband of Katherine. Oh, he also happens to be dying. They said what it was he had during the film, but I didn’t make a note, and I don’t want to offend anyone by guessing. In essence, he used to be a pianist but due to his shaky hands and health can’t play anymore. Now he just sits at home and calls his wife to tell her how great she is. Or, for her to call whenever she needs reassurances as to how great she is. Or, when she comes home, so they can talk about how great she is in person.
What this film comes down to is a mix of sweet moments and a lot of cultural commentary. Too many kids nowadays watch YouTube and are on social media while people of a certain age don’t get it. The entertainment industry has predominately been led by white men. And, the more famous you become the more of a jerk you are while the people around you just turn complacent yes men.
Here is something I didn’t know, apparently the entertainment industry doesn’t have the same rules around firing employees that any business I’ve ever worked for has. Such as the writer getting fired for asking for a raise. Yes, I agree with the response by Katherine that just because someone has a child doesn’t mean they deserve a raise, but a simple no might be more accurate. But then, of course, they wouldn’t have had him accusing her of hating women which resulted in the hiring of Molly. There are also a few scenes of standup comedy that fell flat for me. This is hard to get right on film because for a standup comedian to be successful they have the crowd’s energy to feed on as well as time for the crowd to get warmed up. But in a film when cutting too short sequences of standup it doesn’t really work because we don’t have that same energy.
As Katherine Newbury tries to make her show more relevant, she books guests who are famous for doing stupid stuff on YouTube, which does seem to be the way people become famous nowadays. After failing at her attempt to be relevant through YouTube, Newbury starts listening to Molly but then gets mad at her, fires her, does some bad standup, and decides to rehire her.
Molly and Katherine begin to like one another and start to revive the show as Molly also assimilate herself to the other writers. But is it too late to save the show? You’ll have to watch and sit through all the preaching about ageism, genderism, sexism, and other isms to find out.
- Director: Nisha Ganatra
- Written by: Mindy Kaling
- Starring: Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling
- Rated: R
- Running Time:1 hour and 42 minutes
- Released Date: June, 2019
Review by Milo Denison, the author of “How to Manage Your Manager” a satirical look at being successful in the corporate world.- A video review of this is available on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJ8VubEfxbM