Emma Thompson gives yet another outstanding turn as she stars as a ruthless late night talk show host in Nisha Ganatra’s new comedy Late Night. Written by Mindy Kaling (Ocean’s Eight, A Wrinkle in Time), the film gives an insight into the typically white male dominated world of late night gag-writing through the eyes of its newest recruit, a young female writer of colour (played by Kaling).
Adored by millions of viewers and revered by her peers and rivals, chat show host Katherine Newbury (Thompson) appears to have it all and has the awards to show for it. When she is threatened with losing her show due to her inability to keep things more topical, Katherine decides to inject some fresh blood into her exclusively male team of writers. Things however take a turn for the unexpected when virtual newcomer Holly (Kaling), a former factory worker, is hired mostly to score some diversity points.
Hilarity and much soul-searching ensues when Holly finds herself having to fight, literally and metaphorically, for her place at the writing table whilst trying to navigate the gender politics around her new job. When a scandal threatens to ruin Katherine’s reputation, Holly is at hand to keep things real and give her boss another chance at doing her job the best she can.
Nisha Ganatra (Transparent, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) offers a genuinely funny, heartening and utterly irresistible romantic comedy which navigates both race and gender politics with a huge deal of attention to detail. Pitting Kaling’s character against her male counterparts whist avoiding the usual tropes and stereotypes around the issue, both Ganatra and Kaling are able to present a #MeToo narrative which never takes itself more seriously than it needs to.
Thompson has the knack of taking a character and building a whole story around it, whilst making it all look so easy. She offers Katherine as both a ball-breaking bully and as a vulnerable woman who has learnt through the years that you have to earn your success as no man will ever hand it to you. Kaling gives a beautifully understated turn as a young woman who knows what she wants, even if she has to learn the hard way to be more assertive about it.
Elsewhere, Hugh Dancy (Cold Feet, Martha Marcy May Marlene) and Reid Scott (Veep, The Big C) battle it out for Kaling’s affection as two decidedly similar characters whose differences only just become apparent towards the end of the third chapter. For his part, legendary stage and screen actor John Lithgow gives a beautifully measured performance as Walter, Katherine’s ailing and much older husband.
Late Night does exactly what it sets out to do by bringing a huge amount of fun and humour to an important and timely subject. All in all, a solid modern romantic comedy with stellar performances and a narrative which keeps you hooked throughout.