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Review: Late Night – “A truly delightful piece of entertainment”

In Late Night, Emma Thompson plays Katherine Newbury, the only female late night TV show host working in the US. Katherine is worried she’s about to be kicked off her own show after a decade of hosting and, tired of the same old jokes being offered up by her all-male writing team, she demands that a woman be hired to mix things up a bit. Enter cupcake-bearing Molly (Mindy Kaling).

Molly is such a dreamer that she’s just so happy to be in that room and it doesn’t occur to her to watch what she says or cater to the moods of others. She is fair and honest but lacks any actual experience in television, which is not well-received by the others in her team. Katherine, in contrast, has the experience but is world-weary and sick of being told to change her show in order to suit a younger demographic. It isn’t long before both Molly’s comedic talents and Katherine’s self-destructive approach to her work become apparent.

In many ways, Late Night is just your average funny film, entertaining and fun. Yet it also has something very important to say about representation and ageism in the workplace and public eye – a message that is relevant and poignant and absolutely worthy of discussion in this way. And it says it well (mostly). The message is a little too on-the-nose on occasion and all wrapped up in a neat bow when the reality is, of course, rather different. It’s clearly a conscious decision that Late Night be a more hopeful and lighter look at ageism and sexism in the workplace – one that will acknowledge the struggles but that leaves you fairly sure all will be OK in the end.

Fortunately, the on-screen pairing of Thompson and Kaling is so wondrous that their work, along with Nisha Ganatra’s smart direction and Kaling’s script, elevates the film to above average. Last Night is a truly delightful piece of entertainment, full of wit and charm and purpose. It’ll be an inspiring watch for many women, people of colour and struggling writers and will hopefully promote really important discussions in future not just about more inclusive writing rooms but about the apparent shelf-life of older women. Ultimately, though, it’s just really good fun and another excuse to marvel at the wonder that is Emma Thompson.

Late Night hits cinemas on 7th June 2019.

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