I have to say I’m not liking this new era of misleading movie trailers. For Late Night, we’re treated to a quick succession of one-liners, which is apropos considering the plot, geared to make the film seem like a laugh riot. Unfortunately, this made people think they were going to see a knee-slapper. The box office suffered because no one went home and said, “Hey, this is REALLY FUNNY!” On-line ratings are low, probably because people were disappointed for not falling down laughing while watching. That’s really a shame because it’s a funny movie. Just not HI-larious, as Jayne would say.
There are two stories, one about the powerful older woman who has gotten where she is with only men – white men – working for her, and another about a young woman trying to find work in her dream job. Not only is she young and female but she is brown. For the older woman that is three strikes against, but she’s in a bind because diversity and can get a triple bonus that might keep corporate off her back. What’s interesting here is that the new hire, played by Mindy Kaling, is actually told up front about why she is being hired to write material for the queen of late night television, played by Emma Thompson. This way we skip an entire third of the movie without the whole will she find out she’s not really wanted schtick and go right into the Doesn’t Fit In And Isn’t Really Wanted storyline.
Kaling, who also wrote the screenplay, based everything on her own experiences pounding a crack into the Hollywood façade and forcing the boys to let her play in the sandbox. The film is chock full of
issues of race, gender and age in the workplace. Kaling’s starry eyed newbie story is buttressed by Thompson’s story of being replaced by a much younger person and having to prove she’s still got it even after the doddering old age of fifty.
There are a couple of sub-plots, one questioning what would #metoo-happen to a powerful woman exec who crossed the line. Complimentary romantic sub-plots have Thompson dealing with her long-time love and Kaling being used by a skeezy guy. I’m a little tired of seeing Kaling not owning her beauty and playing yet again a woman uncertain she has enough going on to find a man and catch his eye.
For a movie about a woman breaking into the intensely competitive profession of comedy writer, there is surprisingly little laugh out loud funny. We did laugh while watching it, but it’s not a non-stop laugh machine. The humor often has a more subtle political burn, and there’s a lot not in the trailer that’s too character driven to make any sense of out of context. There are a lot of heavy subjects being tackled in under two hours, which dilutes each subject a bit but makes the whole a little easier to bear.
The production budget was surprisingly small considering the talent on hand, but the movie looks and sounds good. Director Nisha Ganatra has worked only in television until this film, giving her a good perspective on the subject matter, but Late Night doesn’t look like a long version of a tv episode.
There’s no deep dive into the pros and cons and wherefores of prejudice in television, but it’s a good primer for those subjects. The acting is solid, of course, and Thompson’s wardrobe is awesome. I recommend seeing this film if you want to spend some time with heavy subjects in a lighthearted format.
Late Night – Official Trailer #2 | Amazon Studios