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« Who will win SAG tomorrow? | Main | Half of the Oscar nominated films are still in theaters. Catch up! »
Saturday
Jan262019

Sundance: Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling in "Late Night" 

The Film Experience has two contributors at Sundance this year, Murtada and Abe. Here's Murtada's first missive, on a film that's currently closing a record Sundance deal with Amazon -Editor.

by Murtada Elfadl

Emma Thompson plays legendary late night talk show host Katherine Newbery (think Letterman, 2 decades younger, English and a woman but just as famous and revered and still on TV) in the new comedy Late Night. Early in the film Newbery meets a male employee from the writers room who is asking for a raise because he recently had a baby. In two minutes Thompson eviscerates him, and all of the decades of sexism and inequality in the workplace. She likens having babies to having a drug problem that one can’t shake. The latter is an unexpected and illogical simile until, that is, you hear it coming out of Thompson’s mouth. The writing’s funny and sharp, and Thompson is on full throttle hilarious commitment. Late Night has a few more of these golden moments, but also a few that are clichéd...

Written by Mindy Kaling and directed by Nisha Ganatra (who previously directed episodes of Dear White People, Fresh Off the Boat and The Last Man on Earth) the setting and story are quite familiar. We’ve seen this sort of New York City workplace romantic comedy multiple times before. Think The Devil Wears Prada or Maid in Manhattan. A scrappy younger person (in this case Kaling) clashes with their boss (Thompson), both learning a few lessons before they up loving and respecting each other. Kaling is Molly Patel who is hired as a writer into Newberry's 100% white male writers’ room to smooth over diversity concerns. Of course she's the only writer who can pinpoint why the ratings are declining and helps Newberry craft a new winning persona. There is romance (Reid Scott and Hugh Dancy play two of the writers Molly clashes with / likes). It's also fast paced with funny jokes and a few really heartfelt moments, the kind of film that's easily lapped up by the audience. Especially if you are a fan of the two leading ladies.

Mindy Kaling and director Nisha Ganatra at the premiereSome of the jokes are unfortunately obvious. The first time Molly is introduced to her new colleagues, they all think she’s a lowly production assistant because she's a woman of color. There are many jokes about that. Some of them, though, are sharp and produce guffaws while providing acute cultural commentary. As expected, coming from Kaling, the pop culture jokes are spot on. Anytime the movie relies on Kaling’s physical comedy it hits gold and Kaling makes for a lovely rom-com lead. She makes her earnest persona the joke and it’s a funny one. Not easy to pull off, but she does. Kaling’s matched well by Thompson who can mine comedy out of even the most banal lines through her expert delivery. Of course she can -- when has Thompson ever not been great?

In truth, I found it surprising that this film premiered at Sundance. It’s the sort of polished studio comedy that usually gets released in August and scores box office gold as counterprogramming to all the superhero movies. I expect this sort of success story to be in Late Night’s near future.

 

Other Sundance 2019 Reviews

 

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Reader Comments (12)

I am preferring late career Thompson to mid 90's Thompson,excited for this although i'm unfamiliar with Mindy Kaling.

January 26, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I cannot wait to see this. It doesn't sound like it will be DEVIL WEARS PRADA huge but Emma Thompson so deserves a major mainstream revival. Hope this is a big hit for her.

January 26, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

It sold for 12 mil. Does Thompson stand a chance for a supporting nod for this? She needs her 5th acting nod.

January 26, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Remember that amazing Meryl Streep costume party scene from The Mindy Project? Well, I'm hoping that means Kaling is an actressexual like us and will provide Emma Thompson with a delicious part. I even remember her talking about how incredible Dianne Wiest was in Hannah and Her Sisters during an interview. Basically, I'm really excited for this movie..

January 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

If you give Emma Thompson anything she will make it better, if you give her good scenes she will make it wonderful. Very eager to see this, especially since Mindy Kaling is a good writer and the premise sounds intriguing.
I suspect the Sundance release is because it is so hard for small films to get the publicity they need these days to have any chance at a decent theatre run. (Which makes me sad.)

January 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

@Brad - me too! I think Kaling loves actresses and sees this as an opportunity to showcase someone she loves.

Y'all, we haven't loved Emma Thompson enough. She is such a treasure.

January 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Emma Thompson was so great in THE CHILDREN ACT this year. The movie itself isn't stellar--it really loses focus, turns wildly melodramatic, and then fizzles in its third act--but she's fascinating at every moment (and quite funny too in some early scenes). I hope LATE NIGHT brings widespread recognition again for her talents!

January 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterER

Emma Thompson should have been Mary Poppins- well maybe they can get her for the "Bedknobs and Broomsticks- Book 2"

January 27, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjaragon

It sounds a great role for Emma Thompson. I wonder if it will be a contender to Supporting (only Meryl can be a leading campaign for a supporting role: The Devil wear Prada)

January 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHarmodio

2019 will be a banner year for Thompson. She's also starring in Russell T. Davies newest project, Years and Years, and in Caitlin Moran's How to Build a Girl. We all also benefit from her time on the press circuit for these projects.

January 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPam

The trailer for this was fairly weak I thought, which was disappointing considering the talent involved. Luckily reviews like this have me holding out hope for the actual film.

June 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEoghan McQ

Hollywood thinks we're as obsessed with their human resources problems as they are.

June 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDF

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