Movie Review

Watching workplace comedy 'Late Night' is a bit too much like hard work

This movie addresses timely issues of white male privilege and misogyny, but it suffers from the weight of its messaging, at the expense of the jokes

06 October 2019 - 00:00
Emma Thompson is convincing in her role as late-night show host Katherine Newbury in 'Late Night', but not very funny.
Emma Thompson is convincing in her role as late-night show host Katherine Newbury in 'Late Night', but not very funny.
Image: Supplied

Like a well-written joke in a comedy writers' room, Late Night - scripted by Mindy Kaling and starring her and Emma Thompson - looks like a great idea on paper. However, in comedy delivery is everything and this feminist-centred workplace comedy fails to deliver on its promise.

Kaling plays Molly, a wannabe standup who's quit her job at a Pennsylvania chemical plant and arrived in New York to work for the writing team on a late-night show fronted by the once-legendary Katherine Newbury (Thompson).

Newbury is terrible with people, so when Molly arrives to give the show's white male writers' room a much-needed burst of diversity, she's treated with disdain by her boss. That's until Katherine's spot on the throne is threatened when she's told she's to be replaced by a shock comic (Ike Barinholtz) and suddenly Molly becomes her only hope of remaining relevant.

Kaling creates a take on the traditional workplace comedy that addresses timely issues of white male privilege, misogyny and marginalisation, but the film suffers from the weight of its messaging, which comes at the expense of the jokes.

WATCH | The trailer for 'Late Night'

Thompson is convincing enough in her Devil Wears Prada role, but not quite convincing enough when it comes to scenes involving her standup talents.

The seemingly cutting-edge jokes that are supposed to attract millennials to the show are outdated, on the nose and not very funny. In fact, most of the film, while sweet and relevant enough, is marred by its lack of biting humour.

Kaling has enough presence to make her watchable but she's let down by her own script, which doesn't give anyone much of a chance to showcase their comic talents and ends up hitting predictably sentimental notes.

Timeliness and issues are all very well but when they fail to service the main purpose of a comedy, to make people laugh, they're pointless.

There's plenty of talent on the screen but like the potential on the page, it's ultimately wasted because everything about the film screams for another rewrite.

• 'Late Night' is currently on circuit.


Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

X