Hollywood has been on a collision course of meteoric proportions with a problem of its own making, thanks to a lack of diversity across all aspects of filmmaking for some time now, and one of the side effects of this is going to be when movies with the right intentions turn out to be movies that just aren’t that great.
Criticising a film because it is not very good shouldn’t become a case of minority bashing, but rather sharing an honest, personal opinion about whether or not to recommended seeing a particular movie.
If you want a movie that is all about the battle to rise above being just a token pawn in the diversity movement, then Late Night could be for you. Unfortunately it isn’t that great a film.
Written by the wonderfully talented Mindy Kaling whose excellent credits include Inside Out (as the voice of Disgust) and The Office, where she not only played romantic tragic Kelly Kapoor, but was also a writer, executive producer, and director.
Depressingly she was the only female on a staff of 8 on The Office writing team, and if the depiction of that experience in Late Night is anything to go by, as her character becomes the only female in a room of male writers, it sucked.
Her not so great credits include A Wrinkle in Time and Ocean’s 8, films that did not excite me.
So we come to Late Night, which Kaling has written, produced and starred in, as aspiring writer Molly Patel, alongside Emma Thompson as Katherine Newbury who hires Molly in a gesture of inclusion to have a female voice on her show, and one from a minority.
The cast also include John Lithgow, as Newbury’s unwell husband Walter, and a stack of white faces round out the cast to demonstrate the lack of diversity on the Late Night show.
Sadly it’s an idea that feels really tired. Thompson’s Late Night host Katherine Newbury has been in the gig for almost 3 decades, she has dozens of Emmy Awards and yet doesn’t know the name of a single person on her writing staff. They are not allowed to visit the stage when the show is recorded each day, and they are forbidden from writing any material that might be considered contemporary. In other words, don’t reference the internet.
Naturally this has seen the show decline in quality and viewership for ten years and Newbury is finally told this is her last year of hosting the show.
I do have to say that there were some laughs, but nowhere near as many as could and should have been here in a film about comedy writers.
The direction seems particularly pedestrian and comes alive in just two scenes when the camera is miraculously taken off its tripod to allow a more lively and intimate relationship with the performers. There were particularly awkward moments that felt entirely fake, for instance in shots of the audience watching Newbury accept an award, film her show, and do stand up.
The audience I saw it with seemed to like the film, but for my money, go support an Australian film this week and see Palm Beach or Danger Close.
2 & ½ Stars – “Painful, With a Few Good Bits.”
Official studio synopsis follows….
Legendary talk-show host Katherine Newberry (Oscar® winner Emma Thompson) is a pioneer in her field. The only woman ever to have a long-running program on late night, she keeps her writers’ room on a short leash, and all male. But when her ratings plummet and she is accused of being a “woman who hates women,” Katherine puts gender equality on her to-do list and impulsively hires Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), a chemical plant efficiency expert from suburban Pennsylvania, as the first and only female on her writing staff.
With rumours swirling that Katherine is being replaced by a younger, hipper male host, she demands that the writers make her funny and relevant again. A lifelong fan, Molly is determined to prove she’s not just a diversity hire, but the one person who can turn her idol’s career around. Going against everything Katherine has staked her reputation on, she urges her to make the show more contemporary, authentic and personal, a move that could make Molly’s career, or send her back to the chemical plant for good.