Jacob Richardson | 07/08/2019
A middling comedy that, for its unique premise, never quite capitalises on that feeling of ‘freshness’.
Late night talk show host Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) fears she may lose her show when a new producer comes on board. Her show is stale, and almost entirely written by men. To try and counter the inevitable, Katherine hires Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling) to join the writers room. Molly, whose previous job was in a chemical plant and who has little to no experience with comedy, must navigate an extremely hostile office environment to save Katherine from her own worst instincts and to realise her dream.
Late Night frequently causes raucous laughter throughout the cinema. Whether its slapstick gags like Molly being hit in the face with a bag of trash, or clever writing around abortion jokes, women’s rights and more, you’ll find yourself laughing along easily and often.
Emma Thompson, when playing the snarky, uncaring boss, is also hilarious. Her take downs of employees hunting for raises, or writers bludging on the job, could have you in stitches. Similarly, elements of Kaling’s performance strike a chord, despite the necessity for her to almost function as the naive straight man.
The issues with Late Night are around the consistency. Part of that is down to the premise. Late night talk shows benefit from their topicality, and the ability to respond to a day’s events in almost real time. That isn’t the case with the production schedules for film, so many of the jokes Thompson has to deliver in her role as the show host come off as stale repeats of better done gags by real life talk show hosts months ago.
The consistency also isn’t there in the general dialogue for the main duo, with both Kaling and Thompson delivering some stilted jokes that just don’t work. That would be fine, if there was a particularly interesting story hanging around here, but whereas Kaling has tried to shake the dialogue and circumstance up with her script, she has adhered to a relatively standard, and seen before, story structure. We can guess what is coming, which diminishes our interest in it; interest that in this circumstance needs to be held by consistently hilarious comedy which just isn’t present.
That being said, there is a lot to love here. Kaling and Thompson play off each other well, and despite the lack of consistency you will find yourself laughing a lot.
Not quite what one hoped for, but nevertheless a serviceable summer comedy.