Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is an acerbic TV talk-show host who, when one of her beleaguered writers asks for a raise, citing a new baby/family responsibilities, fires him on the spot, noting that – for years – the male ‘good provider’ role was used as an excuse for underpaying women.
Reminiscent of Meryl Streep’s imperious Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, Katherine unapologetically rides roughshod over her white/male staff until, suddenly, she demands that her producer (Denis O’Hare) hire a woman writer.
By pure coincidence, fresh-faced Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), who is of Indian descent, is sitting in front of his desk, applying for a job.
Thanking her lucky stars, optimistic Molly, who previously worked in a Pennsylvania chemical plant, reports for work the next day – only to discover she’s surrounded by disdainful, misogynistic men, particularly Tom (Reid Scott), the entitled monologue writer who refers to her as a “diversity hire.”
“Your earnestness can be very hard to be around,” condescending Katherine dryly tells Molly.
Problem is: although she’s reigned for nearly three decades, Katherine’s failing ratings could cause her imminent replacement by a hot, young comedy-club shock jock (Ike Barinholtz).
So it’s Molly’s ingenuity to the rescue, reminding Katherine that she’s “a little old and a little white” and she needs to change with the times, candidly stating her personal and political opinions – the more controversial the better.
Screenwriter/actress Mindy Kaling nails the savvy deconstruction of an ego-driven, talk show host (think David Letterman/Jack Paar), subtly exploring workplace issues of balance, sexism and ageism with director Nisha Ganatra (Girls, Transparent, Mr. Robot, and The Mindy Project).
Elegant, edgy Emma Thompson is outrageously hilarious, exuding ferocity and intelligence. In support, Mindy Kaling delivers an awkward, yet emotionally intense performance, along with empathetic John Lithgow as Katherine’s ailing ‘Professor Emeritus’ husband.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Late Night” is an entertaining, empowering 8. Seriously funny, it’s not your conventional comedy.