‘Late night’: a he-said, she-said film review

Emma Thompson stars as TV hostess Katherine Newburgy in “Late Night.”

Emma Thompson stars as TV hostess Katherine Newburgy in “Late Night.”


By Tom and Marilyn Jozwik 

Published June 8, 2019

SHE: It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had seen “Late Night” before: It was called “The Devil Wears Prada,” starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. This time around it’s the talented Emma Thompson and the show’s writer-producer, Mindy Kaling. The movie takes on issues of the day, namely sexism and diversity in the marketplace (the director is a woman, Nisha Ganatra). It tells the story of a female host whose longtime late-night talk show has lost its appeal. The tough as nails star is in danger of losing her job. Fortunately Kaling has delivered plenty of comedy and not a preachy film. It is an entertaining  100 minutes capped by a satisfying ending. 

HE: I saw “The Devil Wears Prada” too—in fact, I saw it with you. I’d have to agree Streep and Thompson play similar parts; but watching “Late Night,” I didn’t feel like I was watching “The Devil” all over again. Thompson is an excellent actress, Kaling a likable one and a gifted writer … but what affected me most about “Late Night” was the very moving performance of John Lithgow as Thompson’s professor husband. It was a pivotal, rather than a huge, role and I hope Oscar voters remember it when supporting actor nomination time comes around. Lithgow is totally convincing as an injured (in more ways than one) and self-effacing party whose pain is no match for his capability for love and forgiveness—an admirable character of a sort too seldom seen on the screen these days. 

Characters’ (and institutional) problems are remedied a bit too easily, too incredibly, in “Late Night” and several of the characters are one-dimensional. Questions surface (like, who is the child Kaling’s character Molly occasionally hangs with—or is she a mere figment of Molly’s imagination?) and go unanswered. But then “Late Night” is a comedy, romanticism more than realism, and I thoroughly enjoyed the flick. A favorite scene, subtle and sweet, near movie’s end, identifies Kaling (late of TV’s “The Office”) as the love interest of a co-worker. Commendably, “Late Night” shows no bed-hopping.  B+ 

SHE: Thompson and Kaling are a fine comic pairing, plus the writing is smart, not sophomoric. It’s just nice to see a comedy that doesn’t rely on crass, gross-out humor or slapstick. Teen and young adult audiences might not find “Late Night” as appealing as older audiences. I’d give it an  A- .