Jay Leno, David Letterman, Johnny Carson, and Jon Stewart… All of them are known for their late night talk show talents and all of them would not carry the same high pedigree without their respective writers. Writing is the lifesource to any show and the quality of the writing can severely dictate any show’s future. Great writing can land the host among the greats like I mentioned before and mediocre writing can lead to an early cancellation of a show.
In Amazon Studios’ latest indie release “Late Night,” late night show host Katherine Newbury’s (played by Emma Thompson) ratings are on the decline and her long time, all male, writers are partly to blame. After getting accused for “hating women” Newbury is told by her producer that she is in danger of being replaced by comic Daniel Tennant (played by Ike Barinholtz) if the ratings do not improve within a short time span. Newbury thinks of shaking up her writing team and decides to hire a woman, “any woman,” onto the team. Molly Patel (played by Mindy Kaling) is a long time fan of “The Katherine Newbury Show” and dreams of working for Newbury. Initially, unbeknownst to her, Patel gets hired on as somewhat of a diversity hire since Newbury asks for just “any woman” when Patel happens to be interviewing for the position. Patel quickly notices that she is in a male dominated position and feels that she must prove herself worthy of being a writer for Newbury’s show.
The screenplay for “Late Night” was written by Mindy Kaling. While it is smart and very funny, it can come across as insulting to some members of the male audience. Feminism is a huge topic within “Late Night” as some of the jokes put down men and make them feel as if they are stupid or incapable. I am all for female equality, but I do not feel that one gender should be put down in order to praise the other. The male bashing was not necessary and it did make me feel uncomfortable at times.
The hour and forty two minute comedy serves up numerous jokes throughout the duration of the movie and like most comedy movies, does involve some drama. Not to give anything away, but you will see cheating in relationships show up and even see a few moral dilemmas come into play. Thompson’s Newbury character is a real joy to watch as she transforms during the story. It was very reminiscent of Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly from “The Devil Wears Prada.” Newbury is very cold and always assumes she is correct. She does not even bother to know her writers’ names that have been with her since the beginning of her show. She ends up very out of touch with her new audience and that is the beginning of her downfall. Newbury only realizes that she is replaceable when a guest walks out mid interview on her show. The moment goes viral because the guest happens to be a social media influencer and the moment helps Newbury accept the fact that she needs help with her show.
“Late Night” is also timely amid the #MeToo movement. As I was typing this review, I read an article stating that Warner Brothers just appointed its first female CEO and chair. The Warner Brothers’ male studio executive resigned due to allegations of an inappropriate relationship with an actress. “Late Night” does deal with a few #MeToo movement topics to tie in with its feminist views. To avoid spoilers, I will not go into detail.
After all the dust settles from the chaos that goes on, “Late Night” delivers a heartwarming story that reinforces the long time saying “it takes a village.” No one person can do a show on their own, it takes a team to put on a quality production.
I really did enjoy “Late Night” and recommend it to anyone in search of a night of laughter and drama. Thompson and Kaling are a delight onscreen together and the story will make you feel good as you leave the theater. Grab your best co-host and see “Late Night” while you still can in the theaters. You will not regret it!