Late Night attempts to address ageism, racism, and sexism, while still being funny, and throwing in a bit of romance, and buckles under such lofty goals.
|Screenplay By||Mindy Kaling|
|Genre(s)||Comedy, Drama, Romance|
|Good If You Like||Jokes About Sexism, Ageism, Racism, and Being Politically Incorrect
British Humor & Persona
|Isn’t For You If You||Don’t Like Characters Feeling Forced Down Your Throat
Want The Supporting Cast To Be As Well Written As The Lead – In Terms Of Being Human
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Late Night Plot Summary
Katherine Newbury, a British import, has hosted a late night talk show since 1991 and for at least 10 years her ratings have been in decline. The reasons for it vary from being a snob, an all-male writing staff, to complacency. So, as the new network president Caroline threatens to end Katherine’s tenure, she decides to shake things up. For the first time, in a long time, hire a woman. Said woman is Molly Patel who has no experience in comedy but networked her way into the job.
Which, as you can imagine, in the boys club culture Katherine fostered, this doesn’t go over well. However, with fresh insight and less fear than she should have, Molly takes being a diversity hire and fights to legitimize herself. Even if her peers, and her boss, make this one of the greatest challenges of her life.
The best thing about this film is Emma Thompson. In her playing a role written for her style of humor, she is allowed to flourish in ways no one else really gets to. She gets to bring a sense of heart and depth to the movie, she is allowed to bring dry British humor, full of wit and sarcasm. Making it so, it almost seems a shame this movie isn’t squarely focused on her and everyone else, including writer/star Kaling, isn’t simply a co-star to support her role. Particularly as we see Katherine venture towards exploring her roots and what led her to comedy in the first place – a intriguing journey we don’t see since this isn’t Emma Thompson’s movie.
The Relationship Drama
From a situation Katherine caused three years before the start of the movie to Molly’s love life, both situations bring about unnecessary drama to a film which had more than enough going on. I mean, all things considered, if they wanted to put in a redemptive storyline, all they had to do was turn things up a bit with Katherine. She was already dismissive and callous, all they needed was one blow up which required an NDA and the situation coming out. That is as opposed to what was in the film which clipped it at the knee a bit.
Then, in terms of Molly’s romance, while you recognize no one is going to write a script for themselves without a love interest, at the very least you could make it so the audience has reason to invest in it. That is, as opposed to how Molly’s relationship with Charlie is written where it seems more about making out with a cute actor than showing how toxic things are. Never mind how difficult it could be for a woman like Molly to not end up with a co-worker since all she has time for is work then going home long enough to justify paying rent still.
On The Fence
It’s Funny Because It Isn’t Politically Correct!
There is a weird balance in progressive films of calling out bad behavior, yet also maintain the fact said behavior can be funny. Katherine is able to balance this well, but when it comes to the nearly interchangeable white guys in Late Night, there are multiple fumbles. Making it so, while some moments are comical, the guys don’t seem human and flawed. They are just examples who do change over time, but in such a way that creates this night and day effect. Which, mind you, happens within the course of two or less months. Of which Molly spends around two weeks criticizing the work they’ve done for months or years. A decade for some of the guys.
Turning From Token To Deserving
Part of the story of Late Night is how a woman of color, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t be hired or even get a chance. This is a universal issue for it creates a sense of imposter’s syndrome if you do make it, but also possible animosity as well. For with being seen and knowing you are the token hire, you have to deal with not just justifying your hire to your boss, but co-workers who think you got in by affirmative action. Which Molly counters in the film by reminding the guys she had to be the best of those kept out, but unfortunately, the film doesn’t keep this up.
Instead, Molly ends up being a magical Brown girl who, with no experience, turns things around. All because she stays late, like everyone else, challenges Katherine, like no one else, and had good timing since Katherine was borderline desperate at the time. Sort of undercutting the whole, “Work twice as hard” issue a lot of people of color deal with for the sake of time and not wanting to get too heavy.
Overall: Mixed (Divisive)
It’s understandable that in this day and age, as much as diversity is a goal of many, people still have to write the movies they want to see and write themselves to star in it. The problem is here, Kaling stars in a film in which she isn’t a natural co-star to Thompson. Instead, Molly is written to be this likable character who is force fed to you. For unlike say, The Devil Wears Prada, Katherine isn’t allowed a sense of mystique and things of that nature. She is allowed to be human, we get to venture into her personal life, and just as Molly is a token on her show, Molly feels like a token in this movie. Just with Kaling not writing much of a reason to invest in Molly beyond not being yet another white guy.
Hence the mixed label. While you have to admire Kaling’s writing and sense of humor, even if hit and miss sometimes, her part in the film holds an unfortunate amount of inconsistency. Leading to the point where, while her writing can be seen as an asset, her character? Not as much – despite the potential.