LATE NIGHT – Review by Cate Marquis

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Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling team up for a funny, warm-hearted buddy comedy about a late night talk show host (Thompson) trying to hold on to her job. With numerous awards for her long career, Thompson’s Katherine Newbury was the first woman to host a late night show, so she’s shocked when the network’s new CEO tells her she’s gone – unless ratings turn around. Shocked to discover her writing staff are all white men, Katherine decides to hire the first woman applicant through the door – which turns out to be chemist-turned-comedy writer Molly Patel (Kaling).

Kaling wrote the script and Nisha Ganatra directs this woman-centric comedy, which mines the rich vein of women in the workplace for humor, throwing in comedic bits about cut-throat television competition, white male privilege, diversity hires and even ageism.

While Kaling battles to get her start in comedy writing with fish-out-water humor, Thompson grapples with being a star who has become complacent, and now is in danger of being considered dated and getting pushed out. Thompson explores the challenges faced by a much-lauded ground-breaker, the first woman to host a late night show, but also her long marriage to Walter, played with warmth by John Lithgow, a respected academic now in failing health.

Kaling and Thompson make a great, if unlikely, team, with Kaling handling the comedy heavy lifting and Thompson taking on the dramatic, more reflective stuff. Together they cover issues that women at either end of their career face – a rare, ambitious two-pronged approach. It is a lot of ground for one film to cover, and not everything works perfectly, but Late Night handles in well enough that it comes out a comedy winner.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Late Night is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for June 21, 2019

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Cate Marquis

Cate Marquis is a film critic and historian based in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Marquis reviews film for the St. Louis Jewish Light weekly newspaper and Playback: stl website, as well as other publications. The daughter of artist Paul Marquis, she was introduced to classic and silent films by her father, as well as art and theater. Besides reviewing films, she lectures on film history, particularly the silent film era, has served on the board of the Meramec Classic Film Festival and is a long-time collaborator with the St. Louis International Film Festival, serving on various juries.