Sundance Review: 'Late Night' Channels David Letterman Through '30 Rock' Directed by Nisha Ganatra
Starring Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, Reid Scott, Amy Ryan
Published Feb 04, 2019Mindy Kaling has managed to transform her likeable acting and whipsmart sense of humour into a small entertainment empire that includes lucrative book deals and myriad TV shows. With Late Night, she's made her first major step into movies. Although it's ostensibly a film about the entertainment industry, it more feels like a romantic comedy without any real romance. And that's certainly a good thing.
Kaling wrote the film and is among its top-billed, but she's really a supporting actor to Emma Thompson, whose Katherine Newbury is a late-night talk show host well into the latter years of her career. That means, of course, that she's been treading water for a decade, embracing the same stale monologue jokes while her competitors lap her in the ratings.
Kaling's Molly, a chemical plant worker who has never worked a writers' room a day in her life, gets handed a job at Newbury's show as a diversity hire and the rest is, well, about as familiar as you'd expect as she turns the sinking ship around.
Along the way, there are familiar ups and downs as Molly confronts the patriarchal boys club that is the writing room and fights through the bullshit to make a better television show. The movie feels almost exactly like a crossbreed of 30 Rock and The Devil Wears Prada, though it favours a general breeziness over a plethora of actual jokes.
It's not really reinventing the wheel — and despite its welcome analysis of gender and race in the workplace, Late Night also fails to address the grotesque financial imbalance between writers and hosts in these situations. Still, Late Night is a hell of a fun watch that will undoubtedly serve as a go-to mainstay for sick days and lazy Sundays for years to come. (Amazon Studios)