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Monday, December 11, 2023

SFFL 2019: Late Night Movie Review

Late Night revolves around Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) who is a pioneer and legendary host on the late-night-talk-show circuit.

When she’s accused of being a “woman who hates women”, she puts affirmative action on the to-do list and subsequently, Molly (Mindy Kaling) is hired as the one woman in Katherine’s all-male writers’ room.

But Molly might be too little too late, as the formidable Katherine also faces the reality of low ratings and a network that wants to replace her.

Molly, wanting to prove she’s not simply a diversity hire who’s disrupting the comfort of the brotherhood, is determined to help by revitalising the show and career and possibly effect even bigger change at the same time.

Thompson brings pathos and amusingly severe charm to the pantsuit-clad Katherine.

Smartly written by Kaling and snappily directed by Nisha Ganatra, Late Night takes on white privilege, entitlement and a culture veering toward crassness and conservatism.

Questioning how women in power are ‘supposed’ to act, it delivers a winsome, sophisticated comedy about the times which we live. 

The Parallels of Both Female Characters

The concept of two headstrong females working in a male-dominated workplace is quite a relevant and refreshing concept.

Plus, it provides an eye-opening visual to the cut-throat nature of show business.

It’s interesting to see the different representations of the main female characters. Katherine is a pompous, arrogant, androgynous and a ‘pseudo-feminist’.

On the other hand, Molly is an ambitious, girl-next-door who has stars in her eyes. To see these two parallel characters work together that too in a patriarchal environment.

It exhibits the harsh struggles that women have to go through to survive in the Male-dominated world.

The beauty of the film is that it addresses racial prejudice and chauvinism in a very subtle way.

Through the exterior of comedy, Director Nisha Ganatra addresses serious social issues, but yet does not get carried away with the laugh-out-loud humour.

Addresses Rampant Social Topics

It also sheds light on the realistic, fickle and cut-throat nature of the entertainment industry.

For someone like Molly Patel, despite being sidelined and undermined by her fellow white-workers, she cries but persists to work.

From the colonial days to modern day work, the movie acts as a simple reminder of how much South-Asians have had to fight their way through.

It’s about time that Desis get such an eye-opening and progressive representation in Hollywood.

There is also a dialogue on the stereotypes and ageism that exists in the film industry when Katherine jokes about the future of career, given her elderly age

Moreover, she even gets slut-shamed for having an affair with a younger man.

Many of these issues and subjects are prevalent in today’s day and age. Thus, the movie exceeds from being just a comedy per se.

However, that’s not all. There is also a point raised on mental health because of Katherine’s stand-up on it as she goes through it.

Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling: The Showstealers

These cinematic strong points are supported by the excellent performances by the two leading ladies.

Emma Thompson is dynamite as Katherine. She portrays such a layered character with such flair and ease.

At times, she even reminds us of Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada. 

She makes us laugh whilst the next we feel enraged by the character’s arrogance. Only a great actor can make the audience feel this way constantly and Emma lives up to her calibre.

Her unlikely synergy with Kaling is subtle and effective.

Mindy Kaling is fantastic. The fact that she has written this story and enacted in it exhibits her versatility as an artist.

What is admirable about her character is that despite being an Indian, her ethnicity and skin-colour is not the be-all of her role… Well, not according to her anyway.

Kudos to Mindy for paving the way for all South-Asians in international cinema.

What Could be Improved?

There are evidently a lot of strong points about Late Night.

However, it seems like the ending is predictable. It was quite easy for viewers to foresee how the narrative will conclude.

Also, we see Molly’s cousin and even hear her mother on the phone. She says she lives with her uncle and aunty in queens but yet we don’t see them at all in the film.

It would’ve been nice to at least see her family, just to get a flavour of her surroundings and circumstances.

Perhaps the influence of her mother or any other family member as a support factor would’ve been more effective in deeply understanding the emotional side of her character. 

On the whole, Late Night is one of the most thought-provoking and progressive Hollywood comedies.

Nisha Ganatra smartly educates the audience whilst presenting a feel-good, hilarious and uplifting venture. 

It is definitely worth the privilege of your time!

⭐⭐⭐.5 (3.5/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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