‘Late Night’ Movie Review: Co-Stars Emma Thompson And Mindy Kaling Deliver A Lot Of Wit And Charm


A late-night talk show host’s world is turned upside down when she hires her first and only female staff writer. Originally intended to smooth over diversity concerns, her decision brings about unexpectedly hilarious consequences as the two women who are separated by culture and generation become united by their love of a biting punchline.

After its original world premiere at Sundance Film Festival and being bought by Amazon Studios earlier this year, Late Night has had quite the buzz that is still strong to this day. After all, what is not to love about it? You have a female director and two stellar female leads. You have a fast-paced story that takes a spin on diversity in the workplace and what happens when your relevancy is at stake because times have changed. Even though it is a comedy that plays it a little too safe for me, there is no denying that it also has a lot of heart and it deserves the praise it has been getting.

This movie would not be anywhere close to what it is today if it were not for those who play the leading characters.

Emma Thompson stars as legendary late-night show host Katherine Newbury who is known for her “woman who hates woman” attitude. Katherine is a television star who has worked in the industry for decades but can be very difficult to work with. She is harsh on her writing staff and fires anyone on the spot for whatever selfish reason. Needless to say, this role required a strong performance. Fortunately for us, Thompson was meant for this role; in fact, the character was literally written with her in mind and she exceeds all expectations. She was absolutely phenomenal and my favorite part of the movie.

Mindy Kaling co-stars as Molly Patel, a newly hired writer with an optimistic spirit. She is pretty much the polar opposite of her boss and could have never expected what she was getting her naive self into when she accepts a position as the “diversity hire” for the white-male-dominated writing staff. Despite the odds, however, Molly manages to make a lasting impression on her co-workers and even softens Katherine’s cold heart; she even tolerates Molly’s overwhelmingly positive energy. Combined these two together and you are guaranteed to get a dynamic pairing.

Earlier, however, I mentioned that Late Night felt safe. That is because before my first viewing of this movie, for some reason I was expecting belly-laughing comedy. It turns out that Late Night was not that kind of comedy. At first, I thought it felt basic and did not really explore its full comedic potential. Because of that, at the end of the film, I felt slightly disappointed. Now, I am not saying that the movie was not funny because IT IS. The script was just different than I was anticipating and it took me some time to adjust to the tone of the movie that the director was trying to go with. I definitely laughed and chuckled when I needed to, and overall it was not a complete letdown.

Upon watching Late Night a second time, however, my feelings shifted and I saw the movie in a much more positive light. I totally underappreciated how witty and clever the screenplay is, which was actually written by Mindy Kaling herself. For every one mediocre joke that maybe could have been executed better, there are countless other opportunities when Late Night redeemed its charm. I especially loved the moments when we saw our characters both at their peak and also at their most vulnerable because that is where the audience becomes emotionally invested in the story. It is because of those victories and defeats that make the last act of Late Night so enjoyable and very satisfying. I highly recommend watching it!

My score: ★★★★/5

Late Night is coming to theaters on Friday, June 7th.