Sundance London: Late Night

Late Night
Late Night
Directed by Nisha Ganatra
Starring Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow, Paul Walter Hauser, Reid Scott and Amy Ryan

by Joanna Orland

A fresh perspective on a predictable story, Late Night has the right message, but fails to go beyond the tropes of which it’s trying to break free.

Emma Thompson plays late night talk show stalwart Katherine Newbury, dealing with the prospect of being replaced as host of her own show after decades of success. With a typical all-white-male writer’s room, Katherine decides to disprove her ingrained misogyny by hiring a woman – as a diversity hire. Enter Mindy Kaling’s Molly Patel, an aspiring comedic writer whose only job experience is working at a chemical plant. Addressing issues of workplace sexism, diversity, white privilege and nepotism, the aim of the film is to show how diversity ultimately produces better and more representative work. While Late Night’s message is on point, its execution is typical of any romcom written by a man, with the only truly inspiring female character being Katherine herself, fuelled by Emma Thompson’s brazen performance.

Crying in the workplace, office romances and other cliches befall Molly, making Late Night feel little more than a version of Mindy Kaling’s other work, The Mindy Project. And while there are things to like about Kaling’s work, it often feels of the mold it’s trying to break. From a writer with a different perspective, why is gender and skin colour the only new perspective we get in the film? Where are the fresh ideas alongside the positive message? Why can’t we see how a diverse creator can bring a diverse work rather than just being told to take her word for it?

While Late Night mostly fails to see its message through, it thrives in producing a likeable female-fronted romcom of sorts, with a plum role for Dame Emma Thompson – and let’s face it, that in itself is enough reason to be counted as a success.


One Response to “Sundance London: Late Night”

  1. […] presented 12 feature films from Park City’s 2019 event, opening with the European premiere of Late Night, written by and starring Mindy Kaling. The winner of this year’s Audience Favourite Award was The […]

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