STARS: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow
DIRECTOR: Nisha Ganatra
To me, it's more interesting as to why the low-key comedy Late Night was made than what it's about--because the why determines what it's about in a fairly predictable way.
Emma Thompson gives a capable performance as Katherine Newberry, an older Brit who has broken the age, gender, and cultural barrier to host her own late night talk show on American TV. She's sufficiently stuffy and boorish, like those commercials for Lexus that feature a haughty sounding British voice-over artist to convey the idea that if you drive a Lexus you can feel superior to the rest of the peasants on the road. (A Ford truck spot will, of course,have a male cowboy/redneck voice, because you have to speak to folks in their own language!)
In Late Night the language is decidedly "woman-ese."
And while Katherine is a pioneer in the business, her attitudes are more of the Old Boy Network mentality. Her staff of comedy writers are all white males. It has to be pointed out to her that she should hire a woman for the sake of diversity and to shake things up. Enter Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), a younger Indian woman with no previous professional comedy writing experience. But she fits our ethnic and gender profile. And shake things up she does in terms of getting through to Katherine on a personal and emotional level.
The story crisis is that Katherine is in jeopardy of losing her show due to declining ratings, and ratings are everything in this business--trumping any human concerns about how folks should be treated. People are replaceable parts in the giant ratings=profits machine.
Kaling, an attractive woman whom I've always liked, though she hides her light under a bushel with the self-deprecating roles she chooses for herself, is in reality in complete control here as the writer of the script and producer of the film. As to why Late Night was made, well, it follows in the footsteps of an increasing number of films conforming to the politically correct agenda that's in vogue these days--all portraying a strong woman who has to fight against the injustices of the glass ceiling. Only here we get two strong women for the price of one with both Thompson and Kaling.
We're intended to root for each of them to overcome the odds--to tough it out and succeed. Sure, it's inspiring, but what I find so predictable these days (and I don't care for predictable) is that our eyes are being directed toward what we're supposed to be looking at. We're supposed to fall in lock-step with the agenda--get with the program, and especially you guys out there could use a lot more sensitivity training!
Ugh...I think I'll go watch a Tarzan movie now.
Grade : B -