By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
(“Men in Black: International”) and Mindy Kaling
(“Ocean’s Eight”) make a dynamic, comedic duo in the dramedy, “Late Night.”
Kaling, also wrote and co-produced the comedy which tackles gender bias, racism, diversity and all the other obstacles many women face breaking into the male dominated world of late-night television.
In “Late Night,” Thompson plays Katherine Newbury, a TV host with a routine shtick that has served her well for nearly 28 years. She has a huge late-night following and she’s killing it on the ratings front.
But, just like the Jackson Five sang: “Everybody loves a star, when they’re on the top, but no one ever comes around when they start to drop.”
It was only a matter of time before Katherine’s ratings would plummet. Late-night hosts like Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon and the like, understand the “show” part of the biz better than Katherine. She’s not big on using Twitter and other social media.
Katherine believes she can get by with her tried and true segments that don’t feature all the razzle dazzle and latest YouTube sensations that these millennials like. Compounding matters, Katherine just isn’t open to change. It’s no wonder some of her viewers are jumping ship.
So, when the TV network President , Caroline Morton (Amy Ryan, “Beautiful Boy”) informs Katherine she’s getting the boot at the end of the year and is being replaced by the obnoxious comic Daniel Tennant (Ike Barinholtz, “Blockers”), Katherine is shocked. How could this be happening to her? She’s done nothing but pour her heart and soul into the show. When she isn’t doing that, she’s taking care of her supportive husband Walter (John Lithgow, “Pet Sematary”) who suffers from Parkinson’s.
Still, Katherine is determined to turn things around. But isn't sure how.
Her yes-man executive producer Brad (Denis O'Hare, “Bottom of the 9th”) suggests hiring someone that can breathe new life into the show. Maybe a woman. Problem is, Katherine has become so entrenched in her male-driven profession, she’s not too big on women either. The thought of a diversity hire, sounds good, but she sees it more as a desperate-times-call-for-desperate-measures-move.
Before long Molly Patel (Kaling), a feisty and sharp woman with no experience in the television industry is interviewed by Brad (O’Hare). Molly works as a quality-control expert at a chemical plant in Pennsylvania. Yet, aside from her gender and ethnicity—and that she’s a “huge fan of the show”-- there’s something about Molly that intrigues Katherine. So, she hires her.
Molly isn’t welcomed with open arms by the show’s white male writers. A couple of them were hired with no experience either. But, hey. Tom Campbell (Reid Scott, TV’s “Veep”), Katherine’s monologue writer feels threatened by Molly.
During the staff meetings, Tom, Molly and Katherine dish up plenty of barbs and they are among the funniest in the movie. It’s not long before Molly stands her ground and offers some ideas and punchy jokes that shake up the show and make Katherine appear relevant again.
Just when it seemed things were looking up for Katherine, she’s rocked by a #MeToo scandal involving her and a former employee (Hugh Dancy, TV’s “The Path”) that threatens to destroy her marriage and career.
Then it’s Molly to the rescue again. With Molly’s coaxing, Katherine discusses her transgressions on TV and reveals a side to her fans they never expected to see.
Keeping it real, allows Katherine to not only keep her hosting gig since ratings soar after her confession, but also maintain her bold, British edge. In the process, she discovers that you can bend sometimes and still not break.
“Late Night” director Nisha Ganatra (“The Last Man on Earth” ) gets the most from her outstanding cast, notably, John Lithgow, Max Casella (TV’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Paul Walter Hauser (“BlacKkKlansman”) and Reid Scott (TV’s “Veep”).
But, it’s Kaling who deserves a ton of praise for her provocative, funny and timely script and Thompson, who convincingly makes it come alive with such bravura.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Check Out This Trailer For "LATE NIGHT"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.