As Mindy Kaling ventures into her first feature film, her character, Molly, discovers what it’s like to work for Late Night TV.
One thing that Mindy Kaling knows by now- its how TV works. And writers’ rooms. The writers room she depicts in Late Night is that of a boys club, JUST funny enough, usually assholes, and one thing is abundantly clear: they are lazy.
Her character Molly, on the other hand, is new to the TV world. She doesn’t know any of those things yet. We experience the discovery alongside Molly and empathize with her newness, her work taken for granted, and her efforts to fit in.
When she first walks in, everybody asks her to get coffee not thinking she could be a writer. And then she literally doesn’t have anywhere to sit for her first writer’s meeting (she comically ends up using a trash can). These jokes would’ve fell flat if not for Mindy Kaling’s performance. Another example of a cliched instanced is when Molly comes to work at the studio for the first time, all starry eyed, starting to relish in her new life.. only to be hit with trash a second later. But, Kaling’s execution makes this joke work.
After having her own two-person show and writing on The Office and then creating and writing The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling has proven she can write just as well as she acts. Never ending with ideas and possessing the tenacity of having her voice heard, she is much like her character in this movie. Which brings us to all the other…
Katherine Newbury: Molly’s boss and the late night talk show host. Emma Thompson is a brilliant actor. She brings the words to life and goes back and forth between cruelty and vulnerability with such ease. Unfortunately, some things go over rather quickly for this character (her depression isn’t much explored, neither the reason behind her part-time cruelty).
Walter : John Lithgow plays Katherine’s husband and seems like her rock. It appears he was a piano player of once great fame who now has Parkinson’s and stays indoors at all times. That doesn’t stop him from being one of the most likable characters in the whole movie (certainly THE most likable man), brimming with insight and support.
Tom: Some of the character arcs for the fellow writers are a bit small, see: inexistent. The biggest arc seems to come from Tom, the head monologue writer (pictured below). He starts off not accepting Molly as an actual writer, then he starts to see some of her jokes may have value or insight and by the end he’s pushing her to stay in TV writing.
There is a brief romantic interest with Charlie (played by Hugh Dancy in an American accent.) He is one of the writers that doesn’t seem to have much of an arc – instead taking on the role of the workplace playboy. He flirts with Molly which leads to a confusing conclusion (did they sleep together? will this affect their professional relationship? etc..) and we find out later he had an affair with the show host.
AGEISM, SEXISM & DIVERSITY
This film must take place in an alternate universe, because a WOMAN is a late night tv host who’s been on the air for 30 years. A lifelong late night host, also a woman. Crazy, I know. Which is why this is a work of fiction, sadly.
Within this world, however, it seems there’s still instances of ageism, sexism and lack of diversity. The studio exec (played by fellow The Office alum, Amy Ryan) wants to give Mrs. Newberry the boot, claiming low ratings to make way for a young brash comedian- in touch with the kids.
There was one part of the movie that had an interesting take on the sexism that comes from an extra-marital affair. The secret that Katherine Newberry had an affair leaks out which means she is en-route to losing her show. In contrast, in David Letterman’s similar real life experience, it seemed his show was never in jeopardy. This part of the movie raises the question about our society’s different faithfulness standards and if it seems to be more understanding towards men in that regard.
Otherwise, the sexism and diversity issue are mostly highlighted through Molly’s experience. Not only is she the only female writer but also the only writer who’s a POC.
“I’d rather be a diversity hire than a nepotism hire.”
Finally, the message of this film is that diversity is good for everyone, a win-win that can only cast a wider net of audience members. This is shown with the filmed segments “Katherine Newbury: White Savior” that boost the show’s ratings, and in the final scene where we see the writers room full of faces of different race and color.
Though Late Night takes on more serious topics for a comedy, it does so in a straightforward and pleasing way. Making it a very watchable comedy with some reality check behind it.
Worth it for: Emma Thompson, John Lithgow’s sweet character, and of course, Mindy Kaling.
This movie, although predictable, has charming moments and actors. – ⭐⭐⭐