Tony's Take

LATE NIGHT review

They’re Giving Comedy a Rewrite

“Late Night”, written by Mindy Kaling, follows an aging late night television host that has captivated the World and won countless Emmy’s, SAG’s, and Golden Globes’ over the course of her career.  Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is nothing like her television persona however.  She doesn’t know her writers, she has no desire or care for her audience, and she’s quite stubborn in her ways.  As a new staff writer with diversity is needed, a young girl named Molly (Mindy Kaling) with no experience in the industry finds-herself in her dream job.  While she gets-off to a rock start, she slowly starts to mesh with her fellow writers and her boss.  With a steady ten-year rating decline and a culture of ignorance, the network tells Katherine that this will be her final season as the host.  As she faces the end, Katherine must rely on all of the people surrounding her, including Molly, the rest of the writers, her EP Brad (Denis O’Hare), and the love of her life Walter Lovell (John Lithgow).  With the end of her career nearing, Katherine must change her ways in all aspects of her life or watch as someone else takes over her career.

In her feature film writing debut, Mindy Kaling shows she has tremendous promise as “Late Night” is very smart, witty, and clever.  The film tackles numerous social, economic, and racial injustices unapologetically; leaving the viewer almost feeling bad for laughing at her intended joke.  An excellent cast holds the film together, featuring stunning turns from Thompson and Kaling.  Lithgow, O’Hare, Hugh Dancy, Reid Scott, Paul Walter Hauser, Max Casella, Ike Barinholz, and Amy Ryan fill the rest of this impressive ensemble, giving the film so much heart.  While Kaling and Thompson share a strong chemistry, Kaling is playing a similar role to much of her others; I hope she challenges herself more in the future as she has shown to have quite a bit of range.  Her writing talent is superb; the script is smartly-written and includes subtle, yet not-so-subtle, references to today’s work environment and culture.

While entertaining you over the course of the film’s run time, Kaling also challenges you to be a better person.  “Late Night” is filled with some good laughs, but not nearly as many as I was hoping for.  The film also takes a half hour or so to find its footing; as early parts in the film are uncleanly edited and weirdly-shot.  However, once “Late Night” finds its way, it delivers.  Its 102 minute run time starts off slow, but rallies cleanly as it entertains from start to finish.

“Late Night” is a charming, lighthearted comedy that challenges people to be better in all aspects of their lives.  The film confronts some very difficult, touchy issues and subjects, but does so with elegance and from a very smart angle.  “Late Night” may not be perfect, but it’s a fun, often-edgy comedy that feels very relevant today!

 3.5/5

LATE NIGHT is rated R for language throughout and some sexual references, in theaters JUNE 14TH!