Does Emma Thomson deliver the laughs in Late Night?

As Hollywood decides how to deal with the #MeToo world we live in, Late Night feels like it’s arrived at the perfect time. Written and directed by women, and addressing issues around power, gender and minority representation, it’s a powerful reminder of how far the film industry has come in recent years. And yet despite the timeliness of its message, Late Night feels underdeveloped in parts. It’s supporting characters are two dimensional and the core story is hardly anything new.

Dame Emma Thompson plays Katherine Newbury, a fading late-night TV chat show host and the first woman to hold the role. She’s a tough taskmaster; and yet has no idea why the network is planning to replace her with a young, male host in her place. In an attempt to revamp her failing show, Katherine hires Molly Patel – played by Mindy Kaling – to her writing team, to try diversify the staff and bolster ratings.

It’s a plot we’ve seen many times before; The Devil Wears Prada quickly comes to mind. And much like that film, Late Night wouldn’t work at all without its cast. It owes a lot of its success to Thompson and Kaling, who are both delightful. The supporting actors do the best with what they’ve got – particularly John Lithgow – but I found myself wanting more for the ensemble to do. We spend so much time with Thompson and Kaling, at the expense of the rest of the cast. This might be down to Kaling also being on scriptwriting duties, and she certainly does a good job of bringing a range of qualities to her leading duo.

Kaling’s script is also laced with humour. The story races along, and despite the predictability of the plot, it’s kept afloat by some great jokes.

Late Night suffers due to a ‘we’ve seen it before’ plot and some weak characters. But it’s worth the watch for some great laughs, its timely story and, of course, Dame Emma.

Late Night is out in NZ cinemas from 8 August.

Reviewed by Stewart Sowman-Lund.