‘Late Night’ skewers “invisible” privilege

by Eric Melin on June 7, 2019

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Up]

The new comedy Late Night, written by and starring Mindy Kaling, is an extremely perceptive movie. It’s an underdog story about the only woman in the writer’s room of a talk-show that examines casual and rampant sexism, straight-white-guy entitlement, and the value of opening your heart to the world. And when it works, it soars.

Kaling plays Molly Patel, a late night show’s new diversity hire who worked
previously in a chemical factory and is just a big fan of the show and its cultured, highbrow British host Katherine Newbury, played by Emma Thompson. It’s telegraphed almost from the very beginning that Molly will help re-invent Katherine’s onscreen persona and save the show from slumping ratings.

But the film underlines Molly’s inexperience a little too much. And because Late Night is so insightful in almost every other respect (about male and female professional and romantic relationships and everything else), it’s hard to swallow that its entire premise is built on something so improbable: That no one in the writer’s room had ever considered some of the basic ideas now being floated by Molly the newbie.

Accepting (and excepting) this contrivance, Late Night gets better by the minute, embracing unique points of view from Molly and Katherine, which mines lots of fertile ground for hard truths and big laughs. Kaling’s screenplay takes more than one surprising turn and fearlessly tackles uncomfortable issues as the plot progresses. As Molly, Kaling’s cherubic presence keeps the film mostly lighthearted, even when it gets dark.

Thompson, in turn, is on fire as the longtime host coasting to the end of her career. She provides a sense of gravitas beyond the script by playing the prickly Katherine with more sharp edges than most actresses might, and the movie is all the better for it. Don’t be surprised if there’s award talk for Thompson come fall.

This review is part of Eric Melin’s “LM Screen” column that appears in the upcoming fall edition of Lawrence Magazine.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes for The Pitch. He’s former President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls, Ultimate Fakebook, and Truck Stop Love . He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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