banner ad
banner ad
banner ad


| 9 August 2019 | Reply

Written by Mindy Kaling
Directed by Nisha Ganatra
Starring Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

We’re at an exciting, pivotal point in history where equality and diversity and representation are more important than ever, and no-one is better experienced to provide an astute, real comic view than Mindy Kaling.

An Indian comic of colour, Kaling got her break as an intern on the Conan O’Brien show before becoming the first – and only – female writer on the staff of the U.S. version of Ricky Gervais’s sitcom The Office. Kaling quickly joined the cast, and contributed to over 170 episodes of the show (eventually becoming executive producer of the show and directing some episodes), then made well over 100 episodes of her own show The Mindy Project, and chalked up a clutch of appearances in movies (This Is The End, Wrinkle In Time, Ocean’s 8) and TV (look out for this year’s reboot of Four Weddings And A Funeral).

Kaling drew on her own experiences in those testosterone-charged writing rooms battling the perception of being a token hire, being confused for the girl gofer who collects the lunches or sends the mail, and has turned them into a touching and very human comedy drama in Late Night.

Molly Patel is a quality control supervisor at a chemical plant and amateur stand-up comic who gets her foot in the door to score an interview as a writer on the team of Katherine Newbury (played by an obnoxious and mean Emma Thompson)’s long-running Tonight show, at the exact time when Newbury has been publicly criticised for having a white, male team of writers who “all look the same.”

The writers and Newbury herself all push back against Molly’s naivety, lack of experience, and even her jokes, which they consider too edgy and personal to take a risk on, but with ratings on a long, slow decline and the consensus amongst everyone but the showrunners that the show and its host have been complacent and out of touch for years, the ruthless network boss steps in to fire Newbury at the end of the season.

Late Night is billed as a comedy, but that is unfair pigeon-holing and might even create unfair expectations for the film. Sure, it’s funny – and Kaling ensures the humour is always punching upwards, never at the expense of the diverse edges of the cast – but this is as much a drama as a comedy, and a heartbreaking/heartwarming one at that.

It’s also a film of two halves. The first sets the situation up and is heavy on easy laughs, to the extent of being a little too obvious. There’s no surprises as we tread the normal route of a light comedy written in sitcom style – apart from Molly, sympathetic characters are thin on the ground and it’s only Kaling’s charisma, wit and charm that pulls us through.

The second half injects some much-needed poignancy and drama into the mix, with diversity and compromise being addressed, Newbury’s character showing some real depth and conflict as news of an affair with one of her writers goes public, and she – and the other writers – start to see the value in Molly’s fresh, vibrant approach.

Kaling has taken on an impressive task with Late Night: a comedy, a drama, a social statement completely relevant to our times, and an observation of personal experience. That she makes it work with only the merest hint of it trying to spread itself too thin is a triumph, and it’s so well balanced that you can view it as either a very amusing drama or a serious-edged comedy, and be rewarded from either perspective.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

About the Author ()

Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad