Recommendation: 4/5 Stars, SHOWTIME
Plot: “A late-night talk show host suspects that she may soon lose her long-running show.” -IMDB
Review: The story that is “Late Night” is more complicated than the plotline suggests. At its core, it is two stories being told at the same time. On one hand, there is the story of Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling). She is a woman amid a career change and in search of something to satisfy her passion. On the other hand, there is the story of Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), a longtime nighttime talk show host, whose ratings are slipping, and facing the prospect of being replaced. These two stories cross paths when Katherine demands a female writer be added to the staff; enter Molly.
The world Molly enters is a boy’s club; something I assume is still true for most late-night talk shows. She enters this world as a replacement, ill-equipped for the competitive nature of the writers’ room, and inexperienced in the art of comedy writing. From the get-go, the odds are not in her favor, but slowly and surely, she begins to win the trust of her fellow writers and, most importantly, Katherine. As her female-focused, political leaning, and “person of the streets” material begins to make the air, a new side of Katherine is revealed and the audience responds in droves.
As Molly begins to experience success, Katherine is in a fight for her professional life. To succeed, she will need to embrace her age, humanize herself, focus on the uniqueness of being female in a male-dominated space, and deliver timely material. None of this comes naturally to Katherine. Yet, slowly, her walls begin to fall, and she changes. As she does, success revisits her doorstep. As we begin to become more confident in her ability to hold onto her job, she is blindsided by allegations of an affair with a staff member. Beyond the personal embarrassment to her family, she must deal with the public shaming.
In the end, “Late Night” is a story about being needed and not going down without a fight. It is female-centered and progressive. It doesn’t shy away from big conversations about making space for multiple voices in the workspace, age discrimination, and public shaming. Instead, it takes these minefields on with bravery often missing from the conversation. It doesn’t always nail that landing and arriving at a satisfactory ending takes some unnecessary detours, but this is still a film worth seeing and discussing.
Be good to each other,
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