This one has been on the radar for awhile now, but the timing just never worked out. Finally had a chance to see Late Night and I am glad that it was able to work out.
Mindy Kaling, who plays Molly, wrote this film that tells the story of an all-time great late night talk show host, Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), who has fallen on tough times in the way of ratings and creativity. Newbury discovers that there is a plan in place to replace her as the host of her show, and she decides to push ahead and try to convince her boss (Amy Ryan) and the public that she deserves another chance.
Molly is hired to become the sole female writer on her staff around the same time as a diversity hire. She learns quickly that the all-male, all-white writing staff may not be as welcoming as she believes. Plus, Katherine has chosen this time to become more hands on in her approach to the show, showing up to the writer’s room, full of vim and vigor, and, despite the fact that she does not know the writer’s names (she calls them by a number), she puts everyone on the spot and on guard immediately.
Molly, unaware of the office protocol, rubs everyone the wrong way immediately, but her skill with comedy and her new ideas shine through and get her noticed by Katherine.
Emma Thompson is wonderful here, as always. She is as charming and likable as this fully unlikable character could be. She brings an instant credibility to the role that allows you to believe that she is a legend in the late night business. You excuse the bad behavior because of the charismatic lead actress.
There is also a fantastic relationship between Emma Thompson and her on-screen husband, the great John Lithgow. Lithgow plays Walter, Katherine’s husband who is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. This piece of the story brings such a richness to the story that, while it may not inspire much toward the plot, it tells us more about the character Katherine and allows us to love her even more. Lithgow is tremendous in his limited screen time.
The relationship between Katharine and Molly was fine, but did feel a tad forced at times. Still, by the end of the film, you accept the connection between these two women.
There are plenty of themes running through the film, from ageism to sexism to the lack of diversity in the entertainment business. The #metoo movement even gets a moment inside the movie. Each one is handled well, if not covered fully.
The film belongs to Emma Thompson though and she is a powerhouse here. There are some top notch supporting performances along the way, not only with John Lithgow, but also with Denis O’Hare, Max Casella, and Reid Scott. The writer’s room was filled with intriguing characters from number one to number 8.
If you like the late night TV shows like Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Kimmel, you will find something to like in Late Night. If you are a fan of Emma Thompson, this is a smorgasbord of her acting skills.