Late Night

Late Night

2019, R, 102 min. Directed by Nisha Ganatra. Starring Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, Amy Ryan, Max Casella, Megalyn Echikunwoke, John Lithgow, Paul Walter Hauser, Ike Barinholtz.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., June 7, 2019

Remember the infamous, galling 2015 Vanity Fair cover with all the hosts of all the late-night chat shows hanging out? The cover where there more hosts born in South Africa than there were women? The one where there were more pro-weed New Yorkers called Bill Maher than women? Late Night, the droll but heartfelt media satire written by and starring Mindy Kaling, imagines a parallel world where at least one woman has broken through that post-prime-time glass ceiling.

There's clearly more than a wisp of Kaling in Molly – most especially her own brief tenure as an intern on Late Night With Conan O'Brien – although there's a world of difference between studying playwriting at Dartmouth and Molly's administrative post in a chemical factory ("chemical plant," as she keeps correcting everyone). She's managed to snag her dream job, working in the writers' room for Tonight With Katherine Newbury. She's happily at the beck and call of her comedy icon, the British expat Newbury (Thompson), with her 43 Emmys and decades of ratings. She gushes to her new boss that she's excited to prove that she's not a diversity hire – until Newbury, in quizzical disbelief, explains that's exactly what she is.

Kaling's subtly satirical script is fearless in its depiction of the minefields of modern workplace politics. Newbury, it turns out, has a horrible track record in hiring women, instead falling back on generic Ivy League men to provide her one-liners and bons mots. But now she's on the verge of being canceled, as her show increasingly becomes a tedious, smug excuse to turn off the TV before bed. However, the network isn't interested in a more contemporary replacement but wants her to step aside graciously in favor of the disturbingly dude-bro-y Daniel Tennant (Barinholtz, doing an eviscerating turn as a loathsome Dane Cook-alike). Molly is her last hope at relevance, and the pair inevitably create a fire-and-ice antagonistic bond. Or rather, Thompson nearly cracks her skull as she strains to stop her eyes swiveling back into her head every time Molly starts gushing about her influence. It's the best depiction of an unwilling mentor since J.D. started puppy-dogging around behind the irascible and irate Dr. Cox in Scrubs.

Longtime TV sitcom director Nisha Ganatra (Chutney Popcorn) leans into the situational side of Kaling's workplace comedy with a sharp eye, poking holes in presumptions and finding a lot of sympathy for everyone going through the necessary and overdue upheaval of workplace diversification. Thompson and Kaling spark, while still leaving space for the rest of the cast to deliver blissful, blistering one-liners (I, Tonya's Hauser predictably steals the show there as the dopey gag writer Mancuso) and moments of true pathos (most especially from Lithgow as Katherine's ever-supportive husband).

Yet Late Night shares one telling facet of the classic talk show interview: It's there to tell a story, but you never really get to know the people on the couch. Kaling's script is charming, compassionate, and witty, but it's never really clear who anyone is, leading to an unevenness of tone (there's one moment that falls straight out of a Keystone Cops short, with the writers' room tumbling over each other). Even Molly is oddly undersketched, introduced as water-cooler-funny and suddenly knocking monologue jokes out of the park. Katherine is even more of an enigma: There's something definitionally American about the late-night chat show format, and historically undeniably male-dominated, so it feels like there's a gap explaining how a British woman becomes the queen of the format. It's teased in the text – she delivers a blistering line about the American addiction to catharsis in everyday life – but her own identity as an outsider is assumed rather than explained. It's telling that Thompson does her best character work in the silences and tiny physical responses, filling the spaces the script leaves.

However, the boisterous energy of Late Night, amped up with just enough wry cultural analysis and media critique to make it feel timely, deserves to keep its slot.

Late Night opens June 13.

Showtimes

Tue., June 18

4:25, 7:15, 10:05
AFA 10:45am, 1:35

Wed., June 19

10:45am, 1:35, 4:25, 7:15, 10:05

Tue., June 18

3:35, 6:25, 9:50
AFA 12:55

Wed., June 19

11:05am, 1:45, 4:30, 6:45, 10:10

Barton Creek Square (AMC)

2901 South Capital of Texas Hwy, 512/306-1991, www.amctheatres.com

Matinee discounts available before 4pm daily. Bring Your Baby matinees the first Tuesday of every month.

Tue., June 18

CC/DVS 11:40am, 2:20, 5:00, 7:40, 10:20

Wed., June 19

CC/DVS 11:40am, 2:20, 5:00, 7:40, 10:20

Cinemark 20 and XD

N. I-35 & FM 1825, 512/989-8535

Cost for 3-D and XD shows is regular ticket price plus a premium.

Tue., June 18

digital 11:10am, 1:55, 4:40, 7:25, 10:10

Wed., June 19

digital 11:10am, 1:55, 4:40, 7:25, 10:10

Cinemark Cedar Park

1335 E. Whitestone, Cedar Park, 800/326-3264

Call theatre for complete list of movies and showtimes.

Tue., June 18

digital 9:00am, 11:35am, 2:10, 4:45, 7:30, 10:10

Wed., June 19

digital 9:00am, 11:35am, 2:10, 4:45, 7:30, 10:10

Tue., June 18

digital 10:40am, 1:25, 4:05, 6:50, 9:35

Wed., June 19

digital 10:40am, 1:25, 4:05, 6:50, 9:35

Cinemark Round Rock

4401 N. I-35, Round Rock, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium. Call theatre for complete March 26-28 showtimes.

Tue., June 18

digital 11:05am, 1:40, 4:20, 7:00, 9:40

Wed., June 19

digital 11:05am, 1:40, 4:20, 7:00, 9:40

Cinemark Southpark Meadows

9900 S. I-35, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Tue., June 18

digital 9:50am, 12:20, 2:50, 5:20, 7:50, 10:20

Wed., June 19

digital 9:50am, 12:20, 2:50, 5:20, 7:50, 10:20

City Lights Theatre

420 Wolf Ranch Parkway, Georgetown, 512/868-9922

Tue., June 18

9:40am, 12:40, 3:40, 6:40, 9:35

Wed., June 19

9:40am, 12:40, 3:40, 6:40, 9:35

EVO Entertainment

3200 Kyle Crossing, Kyle, 512/523-9009, www.evo-entertainment.com

Tue., June 18

11:05am, 2:05, 4:30, 7:15, 10:15

Wed., June 19

11:05am, 2:05, 4:30, 7:15, 10:15

Gateway Theatre

9700 Stonelake, 512/416-5700

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Tue., June 18

CC/DVS 11:35am, 2:20, 5:05, 7:50, 10:35

Wed., June 19

CC/DVS 11:35am, 2:20, 5:05, 7:50, 10:35

Thu., June 20

CC/DVS 11:35am, 2:20, 5:05, 7:50, 10:35

iPic Theaters Austin

3225 Amy Donovan Plaza, 512/568-3400, www.ipic.com

Tue., June 18

12:45, 4:15, 7:30, 10:30

Wed., June 19

12:45, 4:15, 7:30, 10:30

AMC Lakeline 9

11200 Lakeline Mall Dr., Cedar Park, 512/335-4793

Discounts daily before 6pm.

Tue., June 18

CC/DVS 2:15, 4:45, 7:30

Wed., June 19

CC/DVS 2:15, 4:45, 7:30

Metropolitan

901 Little Texas, 512/447-0101

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Tue., June 18

CC/DVS 11:30am, 1:15, 4:15, 7:10, 9:55

Wed., June 19

CC/DVS 11:40am, 1:15, 4:15, 7:10, 9:55

Thu., June 20

CC/DVS 11:30am, 1:15, 4:15, 7:10, 9:55

Moviehouse & Eatery

8300 N. FM 620, Bldg. B, 512/501-3520, www.themoviehouse.com/trails/

Tue., June 18

9:30am, 12:25, 3:15, 6:00, 8:45

Wed., June 19

9:30am, 12:25, 3:15, 6:00, 8:45

Thu., June 20

9:30am, 12:25, 3:15, 8:30

Moviehouse & Eatery - Lantana Place

7415 Southwest Parkway, Building 7, 512/572-0770, www.themoviehouse.com/lantana/

Tue., June 18

1:05, 4:05, 7:00, 10:00

Wed., June 19

1:05, 4:05, 7:00, 10:00

Thu., June 20

1:05, 4:05, 7:00, 10:00

ShowBiz Cinemas 8 Marble Falls

2600 Hwy 281 North, Marble Falls

Call theatre for August 22-23 showtimes.

Tue., June 18

11:30am, 1:50, 4:50, 7:30, 10:20

Wed., June 19

11:30am, 1:50, 4:35, 7:30, 10:20

Thu., June 20

11:30am, 1:50, 4:50, 7:30, 10:20

Sky Cinemas

13201 US-290, 512/457-0700, www.skycinemas.com

Tue., June 18

10:00am, 12:25, 2:00, 5:35, 7:10, 9:35

Wed., June 19

10:00am, 12:25, 2:00, 5:35, 7:10, 9:35

Starplex 12 San Marcos

1250 Wonder World Drive, San Marcos, 512/805-8000

Tue., June 18

10:45am, 1:30, 4:15, 7:00, 9:40

Wed., June 19

10:45am, 1:30, 4:15, 7:00, 9:40

Thu., June 20

10:45am, 1:30, 4:15, 7:00, 9:40

Violet Crown Cinema

434 W. Second, 512/495-9600, www.violetcrowncinema.com

Four-hour parking validation in attached garage with ticket purchase. Reserved seating; bar and cafe on-site.

Tue., June 18

2:00, 3:40, 4:50, 6:40, 8:50

Wed., June 19

2:00, 3:40, 4:50, 7:40, 9:50

Thu., June 20

2:00, 3:40, 4:50, 7:35, 9:25

Westgate 11

4477 S. Lamar, 512/899-2717

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Tue., June 18

CC/DVS 11:15am, 1:35, 3:40, 6:30, 9:30

Wed., June 19

CC/DVS 11:15am, 1:35, 3:40, 6:30, 9:30

Thu., June 20

CC/DVS 10:45am, 1:35, 3:40, 6:45, 9:20

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Late Night, Nisha Ganatra, Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, Amy Ryan, Max Casella, Megalyn Echikunwoke, John Lithgow, Paul Walter Hauser, Ike Barinholtz

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