(director: Nisha Ganatra; screenwriter: Mindy Kaling; cinematographer: Matthew Clark; editor: David Rogers/Eleanor Infante; music: Lesley Barber; cast: Emma Thompson (Katherine Newbury), Mindy Kaling (Molly Patel), John Lithgow (Walter Lovell), Hugh Dancy (Charlie Fain), Denis O’Hare (Brad), Reid Scott (Tom Campbell),Max Casella (Burditt), Ike Barinholtz (Daniel Tennant); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jillian Apfelbaum/Mindy Kaling/Ben Browning/Howard Klein; Amazon Studios; 2019)
“The rom-com crowd-pleaser starts fast but recedes to predictable outcomes before the third act ends.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A genial TV studio-set comedy directed by Nisha Ganatra (“The Mindy Project”/”Chutney Popcorn”), a longtime TV director, and scripted and co-starring Mindy Kaling. Late Night is themed like The Devil Wears Prada but with a deviation. The rom-com crowd-pleaser starts fast but recedes to predictable outcomes before the third act ends. But, by choosing easy targets, it shows its love for the better TV show and lampoons the ones I usually hate.
Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is a popular veteran British late-night talk show host in the US whose ratings are dropping. To shake things up on the white writing staff, Katherine hires her first female writer–the Asian-American Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling). This is a diversity hire that displeases all the writers, and is done despite Molly having no TV experience–she’s a chemical-plant efficiency expert.
The dragon-lady boss is disarmed by Molly’s enthusiasm and naivety, as she takes to her and is pleased her input gets the show to rebound with more punchlines.
Emma Thompson steals the film with her barrage of witty one-liners. Mindy Kaling wins over the viewer with her warmth, as she pushes for a more meaningful political satire. John Lithgow adds some drama as Emma’s Parkinson’s disease troubled hubby. Hugh Dancy is the predatory writer Emma must fend off in these times of #MeToo. Amy Ryan plays the network VP, who has decided to fire Emma for the hot shock jock (Ike Barinholtz) if ratings don’t improve.
It’s a middle-of-the road behind-the-scenes workplace comedy, with only a few subversive bombs landing on diversity issues. There are too many inconsistencies in the lead characters to make it fresh, as it fails to fully address the real modern-day issues with any vigor.
REVIEWED ON 6/12/2019 GRADE: B-