Review: Mindy Kaling’s ‘Late Night’ is a joy to watch


(Spoilers ahead!)

If you like: Outspoken women, interrogation of modern media and reminders that diversity is key, then this is the film for you.

Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling shine in this satirical, funny, fresh and modern take on a drama-comedy. When Molly (Kaling) is hired to work for iconic but fading comedy talk show host, Katherine (Thompson), she enters a writer’s room with no experience and ready to fight an uphill battle against the white men dominating it.

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Political and sharp with just the right amount of sass, the modern media landscape is laid bare before us in an age of cheapening and pandering entertainment. Katherine’s show is flailing under the direction of men who are only presenting one point of view and her desire to be taken seriously as an interviewer stifles her ability to be a truly engaging host. When Molly arrives, she ruffles plenty of feathers with her assessment that lack of diversity is the problem – and she is the solution, if she is brave enough to put herself out there.

As quick fixes like Tik Tok stars, viral video-makers and those having their fifteen minutes of fame parade across the set, the show only spirals further as Katherine fails to adapt to modern politics but also upholds her morals in refusing to pander to what this short-attention-span audience wants. The battle of staying true to herself and her values plays out against the need for relevancy as her position as host teeters in the balance.

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Molly, meanwhile, is hard working, eager to please and funny. Bringing a fresh take to the set, her performance highlights why representation and diversity is so important. It is through collaboration, different points of view and alternative thinking that the show truly comes alive again. Molly makes Katherine relatable, modern and unafraid to embrace her political, sharp self as a woman in control, interesting for her own views, not just those of the people she interviews.

As Molly fights to be heard, we recall Mindy’s days on The Office as both an actress and a writer and have to wonder what those writing rooms might have looked like. Kaling was just 24 years old when she was hired and was the only woman on a staff of eight. Undoubtedly, Mindy plays the hardworking woman who commits 100% because that is how she works in real life as talented and forceful writer, but living out the fantasy of being heard in a roomful of men, despite being called a ‘token’, a ‘diversity hire’ and a ‘racial quota’ seems to be a callout. These particular jokes don’t ring quite as true as some of the others and it’s in those moments that this show blends the comic and the political expertly and Kaling’s production and scriptwriting skills really shine. Coming from the comedian who’s had to change her real name, Mindy Chokalingam, for a stage name as it was often mispronounced and ridiculed at shows she was starring in, these jokes are more than throwaway comments.

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‘Life doesn't make any sense, and we all pretend it does. Comedy's job is to point out that it doesn't make sense, and that it doesn't make much difference anyway.’ – Eric Idle

This film has its finger on the pulse of an important moment and highlights the importance of having ‘someone who isn't thinking the exact same thing as every God-damn other person in the room’. This idea in itself, as well as Kaling and Thompson’s work relationship is so fascinating and compelling that Kaling’s romance storylines seem a little unnecessary. With women in control and power playing, the romance, by comparison is a little predictable, and takes away a little from Kaling being a force to be reckoned with in the writer’s room. It doesn’t ruin the film by any means, but personally I felt the main plot was more interesting by far.

This is a female comedy but it’s not a romcom. It stands in a category of its own – less reliant on male comedy tropes, it's more confident standing on its own two feet, as can be seen with Kaling’s other projects like ‘Never Have I Ever’. Intelligent and critical, the humour isn’t slapstick but considered and has something to say beyond just a withering satire. Definitely worth the watch!