Rob Reviews "Late Night"
“Late Night” is one of those films that upon first glance could go a number of ways. With a dramatic powerhouse like Emma Thompson and a modern comedic icon like Mindy Kaling (who also wrote the script) in a one-sheet where Kaling is hugging Thompson from the side in that buddy-buddy fashion and Thompson staring into the camera blankly, it was hard for me to figure out what I was preparing myself for. Would this be comedy or drama? Actually, it’s both.
Thompson plays Katherine Newbury, television’s first female late-night talk show host who has been in her role for almost three decades and seems to be losing her touch with the modern landscape. She barely knows her staff and lives in a world where she simply rules all while making time to spend with her husband, Walter (John Lithgow), dealing with his own issues. Through some crazy circumstances, chemical plant quality assurance employee Molly (Kaling), finds herself on the writing staff, and as Newbury clashes with the network brass headed by Caroline Morton (Amy Ryan), who lets her know she is being replaced, Newbury starts to realize she needs to change and needs those around her to help her do so.
Many do not realize the gift that Kaling has for the written word, and it is on full display here. There is just the right amount of funny in this heartfelt story to keep things light while still showing the gravity of Newbury’s situation, even paralleling a couple of ripped-from-the-headlines plot points that keep things moving. Thompson (in a role Kaling says she wrote with her in mind) shows Katherine’s character arc brilliantly, and her work with Lithgow is both endearing and wonderful. (Seriously, taking two actors I could watch read the phone book and putting them together is worth the price of admission ALONE.) This also dips its toes in the ensemble waters as well with great performances by veteran actor Denis O’Hare as Katherine’s right hand man and Hugh Dancy, Max Casella, Paul Walter Hauser, John Early, and Hugh Dancy as some of Molly’s fellow writers. There is even an appearance by one of my current favorite comedic actors in Ike Barinholtz playing the man eyeing Katherine’s chair that may (or may not) be taking a shot at Dane Cook. OK, it’s TOTALLY taking a shot at Dane Cook.
Director Nisha Ganatra (who gets her own shout-out in a subtle Easter Egg, located in Molly’s bedroom) simply shoots this in a way that gives way to the performances by her actors. There are no major camera tricks or complicated shots here because they are not needed. Ganatra understands that less is more here, and she GETS IT.
“Late Night” is simply one of those films that I think could be a sleeper hit during the Summer Movie Season. Well-written, well executed, and thoroughly entertaining, use this for a good date night movie that has a little something for everyone!