Late Night is about an experienced late-night television host Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) who hires a woman Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling) out of diverse necessity to her writing staff. Her writing staff largely consists of white men, and everyone on Katherine’s crew has grown complacent in their jobs including Katherine herself. When an executive informs Katherine this will be her last season, things change.
She’s being replaced by a younger host, Daniel Tennant (Ike Barinholtz), a comedian whose material sticks in the realms of vulgar and misogynistic. His material though seems more real compared to Katherine, who stays away from real-world issues, preferring the safer material. As such, she’s losing her audience. After all, sometimes laughter is the best way to get people to talk about real-world issues.
Molly clearly defines some experiences women have had integrating into male-dominated careers. She works extraordinarily hard and often stays late to prove she belongs in the comedic industry. Despite the fact that she comes from a previous job in the factory, she does provide the writers team great material. She earns her place on Late Night with Katherine Newbury, as the show improves and begins to earn its audience back.
One of the other writers on the team, Charlie, is a good looking man. More than anything, he cares about his ability to get women in his bed. He’s also a creep, who pushes Molly to try and sleep with him. When she puts her foot down, he says he gets it, she’s just playing by the rules. That set me off immediately. I’ve experienced the very thing myself and it leaves a terrible taste in my mouth. Thankfully though it turned around. Molly realizes what a scumbag Charlie is, and focuses in on her job. The sound relationship gets to come later.
Katherine as a character is interesting. She appears to be the woman in management who has fought and earned her place but is tired. She also thinks she’s set for life, hence the complacency in her job, she doesn’t keep fighting for her place. The parallels of her affair with slut-shaming in today’s media are well utilized on commentary in the industry. Women are often shamed for something men get praised for. Slut-shaming is quite a real thing. A title women can and do live in fear of.
Katherine continuously learns from Molly, realizing she can’t ever quit making her mark. That she has influenced so many, watching Molly watch her older material on YouTube. While she influences many and sees her impact reach in Late Night, she also realizes it’s okay to make mistakes. The acknowledgment of a mistake has to happen. So long as you admit mistakes, and apologize, things can turn out alright in the end. Katherine gets to keep her show for being raw and honest. Sometimes the best we can be is our honest selves.
As a woman in engineering, it’s tough breaking into industries typically dominated by men. It is even tougher when the industries reinforce certain traditions. As showcased here, you have to work hard, harder than anyone else in the room. And still, even when your work is your absolute best, and shines above the rest, it can still be difficult to obtain their trust, to get them to listen to you. Molly showcases that work ethic, and how long it takes to gain trust of individuals involved. This movie takes place over the course of a season of television all in two hours. It can be difficult to represent that timeline and that work ethic over a shortened timespan, and that is something Late Night struggles with. It does also show romance is possible though while working at a tough job and I appreciated that immensely!
Overall, I loved Late Night. There are a lot of great parallels to today’s society with women trying to earn places in male-dominated industries. It suffered from lazy writing in some instances. However, Kaling keeps a tight focus on the subject matter, with fresh turns that kept the theme from getting repetitive. Kaling drew on her own experiences for this movie’s screenplay, and it shows very well. Thompson shows a remarkable transition emotionally for Katherine, comparative to her physical transition in Nanny McPhee. Late Night is a great representation of what it takes to break the mold of an industry. It may not be the perfect film, but it is a terrific insight into the challenges a minority must face to break into any dominated industry. –Katie Gilstrap
Late Night is streaming on Amazon Prime now!