Late Night Review – Sharp, Edgy, Funny, A Must See

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Late Night, from Amazon Pictures and Entertainment One, presents a funny and unfortunately realistic view of the talk show wars, complete with an over the hill female host, a writer’s room of sophomoric males, and an adversarial TV exec.

Directed by Nisha Ganatra, Late Night stars Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, who also authored the screenplay, John Lithgow, Ike Barinholtz, Amy Ryan, Denis O’Hare, Hugh Dancy, Reid Scott, Max Casella, Paul Walker Hauser, John Early, Luke Slattery, Blake DeLong, and March Kudisch.

Late Night begins with a voice over introducing Katherine Newberry, played by Emma Thompson, who is accepting the comedian of the year award. As the voice over continues, we hear her bio, 23 years in late night, as many Emmy awards, Golden Globes, People’s Choice awards, even in the recent years when ratings have been slowly sliding, she has kept her show alive.


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As the night winds down, she is on the phone with her husband of twenty-five years Walter Lovell, played by John Lithgow. Hearing interference she turns and sees up and coming comedian, Daniel Tennant, played by Ike Barinholtz, who is preforming trash comedy and getting a lot of laughs as he targets cultures and customs with a pro-American bad ass slant.

At the office the next day she is meeting with Brad, played by Denis O’Hare, her right-hand man who heads up the writer’s room and determines which jokes make it into the monologue. Today, he conveys the message that the head of the network, Caroline Morton, played by Amy Ryan, has been calling.

He has also been told to hire a woman writer, which sends him into panic as women in writer’s rooms are subject to bawdy humor that borders on deeply offensive. On this day he is interviewing Molly Patel, played by Mindy Kaling.

Halfway through the interview Katherine calls and screams just hire a female. As luck, fate and kismet would have it, right place, right time plays a trump card and Molly Patel, with no background in writing or stand up, is hired.


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Soon we see, Katherine Newberry is edgy, fiercely fearful of losing the pinnacle and all that it is, she comes off as misogynistic and then we see she holds everyone in contempt. She has a rapier wit and biting sarcasm and doesn’t care to take the time, as life and late-night writing, can at times be a revolving door, to learn anyone’s name and designates them numerically.

Newberry also refuses to call the head of the network which brings Morton to her office. Over a heated exchange Newberry is told this season is her last. The show, which she had had for 23 years, is being given to someone younger, edger and male.

This ushers in the second act, when Katherine becomes aggressive in attempting to save her show, and with Molly Patel on board in the writers room, the male alpha attack dogs are roused from slumber and soon, Molly is alone, fighting a system that she hates, for someone she adores, who is unappreciative, and in need of her fresh approach. Sometimes the people who need us the most fight the hardest.

The publicist scene is something to watch for as Newberry is being sold on her need to hire the PR flack her raise public awareness and drive ratings.


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Late Night is genuinely funny, with laugh out loud moments even as it touches on real issues. This type film that spoofs or revels the inner workings of the Hollywood machine usually do very well.

For first time scribe Mindy Kaling she manages to pen a realistic screenplay, hitting all the high points and using humor to defuse the tense situation. She also allows her characters to have real responses such as crying in the office ladies room or the roller coaster of female emotions.

Emma Thompson looks fabulous in this film. I feel it may be almost a taboo to mention and yet she looks every bit, on and off screen, as someone at the top of her game. Her stand up monologues reflecting the trend in Hollywood to squeeze women out after a certain edge are funny and unfortunately true, in some instances.

Late Night is sharp, witty, with real humor, and unfortunately present a realistic view of the talk show wars. See it!