Late Night

Backstage, you’ll find some laughs, honesty, and strength in women and diversity

Does anyone think Johnny Carson would have admired “Late Night?” Does anyone think Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Oprah Winfrey or Jay Leno would enjoy this movie about a late night talk show host threatened by retirement and replacement?

To answer both questions, I think they probably would.

Oh sorry, one more question: would Ellen like to see Emma Thompson have her hairstyle.

I think she would.

Thompson plays and introduces us to Katherine Newbury, the famous female talk show host, whose ratings have been declining for years, and her network President (Amy Ryan) threatens to replace her with a hot comic (Ike Barinholtz).

Reasons for her replacement: she’s not a women person, she’s rude and pushy to people, and she’s lost the creative sparkle to bring big laughs. I bet some people feel the same way about “The Simpsons” or “Saturday Night Live.” Even her Parkinson’s-stricken husband (John Lithgow) agrees on the show.

Mindy Kaling of “Office” fame writes and produces herself as Molly Patel, a chemical plant specialist, who decides to expand her horizons in the world of comedy by joining the writing staff of Katherine Newbury’s show.

It’s the general law of any media that the newcomers must be picked on. She falls for a writer and comedian (Hugh Dancy) for a short while, and she’s picked on by the head monologue writer (Reid Scott), until she gains a connection with him.

But really, she must take the courage to stand up to Katherine, her long-time idol, and tell her how she can save the show. There are times when it works, times when Newbury slams her material, and even termination scenes; but throughout this movie, Molly proves to herself she is not a toy to be played around with. She is a woman as Newbury is.

“Late Night” is funny and touching at times, thanks to the strong chemistry between Thompson and Kaling. They portray women from opposite worlds, and one of them proves that it doesn’t make you perfect just because you live on Park Avenue. I think you know who I’m talking about.

And the supporting work from Scott, Lithgow, Ryan, Barinholtz, and Denis O’Hare (as Newbury’s assistant) helps keep things rolling along. Kudos to director Nisha Ganatra (“Transparent,” Chutney Popcorn”) for guiding the stars and for satirizing late night television.

Believe me, I would go to these things if tickets were as kind as the writing here. This movie is about gender equality, diversity, and ratings.

Sure, it has some cliches like Kaling’s entrance to the job with all the writers and host picking on her. But the actress’ writing gives her strength. Now this is a woman.


Opens in New York and Los Angeles June 7

Everywhere June 14

Categories: comedy, Drama

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