Late Night

Jun 10, 2019

It's tough hosting a late night talk show; just ask aging, hardened Katherine Newberry.

Late Night

Grade: A-

Director: Nisha Ganatra

Screenplay: Mindy Kaling (No Strings Attached)

Cast: Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), Mindy Kaling (Ocean’s Eight)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 42 min

By: John DeSando

“Your earnestness can be very hard to be around.” Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson)

Molly (Mindy Kaling), a new writer on the old Katherine Newbury late night talk show, is as earnest as Katherine is tough. Despite firing Molly more than once for that honesty, Katherine calls her back each time for Molly’s connection to contemporary social media culture, her youthful optimism, and most importantly--being a woman

Late Night is a savvy and witty deconstruction of the ego-driven talk show hosting and the relentless adjustment older hosts must make to contemporary culture and openness. Katherine’s rapid fire, spit fire putdowns are worthy of screwball comedy and hosting invective best exemplified by an original host, Jack Parr. But, of course, her supercilious, caustic attitude is eventually what puts her on the employment chopping block.

Besides the aging business is her staffing challenge: all male writers, who never meet with their boss. The sexism usually suspected in the entertainment business is only too apparent when the camera pans the table of male writers. (It works both ways as she is thought not to like women anyway.) Their acceptance of Molly is cold and ignorant because she is warm, honest, and funny.

Molly’s down-to-earth spunk gets the beleaguered host’s attention. Although no audience will be surprised by the turn of events, the acting is so top flight and writing spot on that waiting for the next bit of humor is the chief delight. While the plot is formulaic, the two actresses command attention.

Because I loved the Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, uncompromisingly tough while being uncommonly talented, Katherine appeals to me. Tough is not bad, and it can be tamed for the times.

The theme of the need to love your fellow humans is clear and applicable to the audience and the characters alike. To the characters the theme becomes the powerful advice to get a life, a behavior that just may provide the skills necessary to keep a job and enjoy a life.

Late Night shows it’s not too late to change, and the denouement is as positive as you might expect a comedy to offer. Although J K Simmons’ Fletcher in Whiplash defines the tough teacher, Emma Thompson’s Katherine takes the role of leader a step farther toward charity and happiness.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at