In Late Night, Emma Thompson plays a ruthless executive of a high-end company who will force her employees to meet any and every one of her needs without giving so much as a second thought as to what their personal lives or schedules might look like.
Meryl Streep says hello.
From Amazon Studios, Late Night is a new comedy-drama film that comes from director Nisha Ganatra (she’s worked on a few feature films, but has largely made a career for herself in directing television) and writer Mindy Kaling.
Kaling also stars in the movie as she plays Molly — a bright, young and overly optimistic woman who has just moved to New York to make a name for herself in the late-night talk show business.
More specifically, Molly’s dream is to get hired on famous celebrity Katherine Newbury’s (Thompson, who’s playing the same character as she did in Men in Black: International or practically any other movie that Thompson has been in for the past decade) show. Never mind the fact that Molly has heard that Katherine can be a nightmare to work for, she’s dreamed of landing this gig ever since she was a little girl and she’s not going to let anything stand in her way.
When Katherine’s assistant, Brad (American Horror Story’s Denis O’Hare), informs his boss that they need to make some kind of diversity hire after their writer’s room was called out for being all white, straight dudes, Molly gets her wish.
Granted, nobody really plans on listening to anything that Molly has to say and they’ll probably fire her in 13 weeks anyway, but she’s still *technically* made it.
Katherine, however, is in trouble. The network’s president, Caroline Morton (Amy Ryan, giving a pretty off-putting performance for some reason, leading me to believe that either a number of her scenes were edited out or her heart just wasn’t in this thing), plans to cancel the show due to low rating. That means that Katherine only has two months to bring her show back to where it was during their glory days, or everyone who works for her gets the axe.
Problem is, Katherine has really stopped putting forth an effort in, you know, most things in recent years. Having to start from the ground-up feels like a huge chore that, honestly, she might not have what it takes for.
That’s what brings Katherine and Molly together as they both build each other up with this nice friendship/mentorship, all of which plays out exactly like you think it will.
Sorry to say it, but Late Night is incapable of throwing any surprise or any touching feeling you may not have expected at you. This movie is kind of like a bowl of plain oatmeal — bland.
I was excited for this one, too! The message and story that the trailers for Late Night were pushing forth all seemed right up my ally in a Big Sick kind of way. Kaling has also written some really funny stuff before, whether that be The Mindy Project or The Office, meaning Late Night looked like it was going to be an easy home-run.
Credit where credit is due: the cast for Late Night is pretty exceptional. Emma Thompson, of course, is a great get, and while Thompson could easily play this role in her sleep, she commits to it and has some fun. Kaling, too, is a really talented actress who works well in here. Between this and Ocean’s 8, Kaling’s choices in films to star in have been a little safe — yet, she still manages to be one of the best parts about both of those films, proving she’s an actress to continue watching.
I like some (some, not all) of the supporting cast in here, too. Denis O’Hare is kind of the voice of reason in the office, allowing him to lay forth some really funny sarcastic lines every now and again. BlacKkKlansman’s Paul Walter Hauser as one of the writers made me chuckle a few times (even though poor Hauser is going to be type-cast for the rest of his life) and The Oath’s Ike Barinholtz doing a Dane Cook impression was semi-entertaining to watch, too.
It’s just the story, man. This story is one that you’ve seen a million times before and will see a million times again.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing in it of itself — Hollywood is constantly telling the same stories again and again — but it is when Late Night has nothing new to add to the narrative. In fact, the movie doesn’t even tell its own narrative particularly well, come to think of it.
There are moments when you can tell it’s trying to do something, which I appreciate. Late Night is trying to tackle some big subject matter in addressing white privilege, diversity hires, systemic racism, etc. That’s ambitious, yes, but it’s also part of the reason why I wanted to see this movie.
Those conversations in Late Night never really go past the surface level, though, and ultimately winds up playing things in a very cookie-cutter or cute kind of way where the end message is, ‘Hey guys, can’t we all just get along?’ Sure, you might have somewhat expected that kind of result when walking into the movie, but I promise you aren’t expecting it to be as phony or plastic as it winds up coming across. Just look at the forced romance between Kaling and one of the writers that comes along in the third act, if you need an example.
Late Night also just feels largely unfocused — or rather, it’s just focused in the wrong areas. All of those socially relevant conversations are surface level as mentioned, but John Lithgow as Emma Thompson’s husband who’s suffering from a disease that worsens every day gets ALL KINDS of screen time. Does John Lithgow have anything to do with anything else in this movie? No. He most certainly does not. Yet, that’s what we’re given, and it’s overwhelming frustrating.
Again, I think of The Big Sick and how that movie tied in comedy, romance and messages about people’s biases all into this adorable little movie (a movie I highly recommend, if you haven’t picked up on that by now). Then I compare that to Late Night and it kind of feels like they drop the ball in a lot of those regards. Not in every regard, mind you, as Late Night still has its moments, but this movie didn’t really make me laugh as much as it should have, it felt like it was missing a lot of charm and the messages almost feel TOO accessible, to the point where it feels somewhat disingenuous. Try as it might, Late Night just doesn’t click.
Watch the trailer for Late Night here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the film!
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