Late Night - 2019
Director(s): Nisha Ganatra
Writer(s): Mindy Kaling
Cinematography by: Matthew Clark
Editor(s):Eleanor Infante and David Rogers
Cast: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow, Hugh Dancy, Reid Scott, Denis O’Hare, Max Casella, Paul Walter Hauser and John Early
On January of every year, the Sundance Film Festival kicks offs and I start to jot down the Indies I want to watch throughout the year. Before this weekend, I had yet to see any on my list -Midwest is not the place where Indies go to strive. Luckily for me, AMC brought Mindy Kaling's Late Night, and my local Indie Theater brought Joanna Hogg's The Souvenir (2 down 13 to go). Before we go to Hogg's dark semi-autobiographical film, how about we start with the funnies, in one of my year's favorites comedies.
The story follows the legendary talk-show host, Katherine Newbury (Thompson), the only woman ever to have a long-running late-night show. Her ratings have been on a downward spiral for over a decade, as her format and persona have gone stale in a late-night landscape filled with celebrities doing karaoke in hopes of going viral. Newbury, after being accused of being a woman hater by one of her former employees, she hires her first woman writer in a long time, Molly Patel (Kaling). While at first Molly and Newbury buttheads, the fact that the studio wants to replace Newbury makes her try new things and grow as a performer thanks to Molly's unique point of view and recommendations.
Kaling wrote perfect roles for her and Thompson - as they play to their strengths and they elevate the material through their charm and charisma. The story manages to stay funny throughout the entire runtime, even when it goes to the predictable dramatic third act where the new-found friendships are tested. I loved the commentary on how people refuse to evolve or get complacent in their ways - and refuse to adapt even when everyone around them is passing them by (some chose to blame the people around them instead of learning from them). Kaling also showcases how hard it is for a woman, especially on past her "prime" (according to Hollywood), to stay relevant in this society - and how audiences flock to authenticity when it comes to comedy and celebrities.
The acting across the board is solid - with Emma Thompson being the anchor that carries the film on her shoulders. Thompson effortless charm draws the audience in, even when she is being a hard ass boss that fires anyone that crosses her way - and her comedic timing is something that people overlook. Mindy Kaling balances Thompson dry delivery with a more upbeat and hopeful look on the world - I thought at first that I would not like her character (she starts crying after being yelled at) but she learns quickly to have a thicker skin and helps revive Thompson's show. And off course I think the world of John Lithgow (National Treasure), as he gives a quiet performance as the husband of Thompson.
Late Night is a smart, engaging, and relevant comedy that tackles subjects often overlooked by many films. While it never loses sight that it is a comedy first, it does go the extra mile to show us three-dimensional characters, and not punching bags for jokes. Thompson and Kaling are fantastic, and the film leave you wishing that Newbury was really on air tonight.
Late Night is a Glass Half Full.
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