Comedy Drama

Review: ‘Late Night’ Takes a Funny and Poignant Look at the Gender Divide

June 12, 2019Sherry Li

Starring Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling, director Nisha Ganatra's Late Night is a hilarious — and surprisingly heartfelt — comedy about a talk show host who is on the verge of losing her own show.

Katherine Newbury (Thompson) has been in a slump for over a decade. She's reluctant to adapt to today's audience, and despite her legendary career, her ratings have begun to reflect that. She hires Molly Patel (Kaling), who leaves her job at the chemical plant for the opportunity, despite her lack of any professional experience in comedy. Molly is the first woman and person of color in an all-white, all male-writing room, and quickly she is determined to prove her worth.

Written by Kaling, the movie's jokes are fun and snappy, coming at you with no pretense of subtlety. Late Night is a film that understands its audience and is quick to push its own perspective of the world, which may seem incredibly relatable and true to some or exaggerated and over the top to others (but if you feel that way, the film probably wasn't made for you anyway). It certainly covers a lot — from sexism, nepotism and white privilege to the #MeToo movement and feminism — and has a lot to say about the topics.

Though the laughs are consistent throughout, there are plenty of scenes that show that Kaling has a lot more to her writing abilities than just comedy — the emotional scenes tug at the heartstrings and have just as much sentimentality as something you might expect in a much more serious drama. Thompson nails her role, and her scenes with John Lithgow, who plays her husband Walter, are magnificent. Were the movie to spend more time pacing out the more dramatic elements of the narrative, it would have been incredibly impactful.

Nevertheless, if you're a fan of Kaling's past work, then Late Night will be everything you want it to be and more. It's funny, feminist, and surprisingly poignant at times, and hints at the great potential that Kaling will have in the future as a screenwriter. There's a lot to love about this film, and though it isn't perfect, it's as good as the buzz has made it out to be — and perhaps even better.

Late Night releases June 14th, 2019 from eOne Films. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language throughout and some sexual references. Its runtime is 1 hr. 42 min.

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