A review of the new film “Late Night”

So here’s a rarity: a film directed by a woman (a first such responsibility for Nisha Ganatra),written by a woman (a first feature film script from Mindy Kaling), with women in the two leading roles (Emma Thompson as the presenter of a late show on American television and Kaling as the token female in the show’s previously all-male writing team).

So, does it work? It has a sharp script – with many funny lines but few laugh-out-loud moments – and some fine acting – especially from Thompson who should receive some nominations for a performance that is one of the best of her distinguished career – but the plotting is a bit too thin and formulaic. 

In film narratives, we so often have the notion of binary opposites and this work is a classic case: Katherine Newbury (Thompson) and Molly Patel (Kaling) represent English/Indian-American, middle-aged/younger, established/aspiring, selfish/caring, uptight/at ease. Naturally this presents many opportunities for comedic contrasts – it’s just not enough.

I was reminded of a film of two years earlier called “The Big Sick” which was written by and starred Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani. That was a better work but, either way, it’s good to see a bit more diversity in American cinema.


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