Hot button topics of gender equality and sexism in the workplace are tackled in “Late Night,” a disappointing, tepid film written by and starring Mindy Kaling. It’s great that Amazon Studios took a chance on a comedy that conveys a minority woman’s point of view in a male-dominated world, but the misstep of a movie is more of a disservice to unique voices because it’s burdened with insincerity.
Legendary late night talk show host Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson ) is being pushed out by her network due to low ratings and an even lower likeability factor. Realizing that she has never had a female writer on staff for over 25 years (a ridiculous notion), Katerine demands they hire one ASAP in an effort to breathe new life into the show. When plucky chemical plant worker Molly (Mindy Kaling) takes a chance at the job opening, she lands the coveted position (despite having zero writing experience). It’s ridiculous and disingenuous, and the scene where Molly is hired on the spot by an older, white male simply because she’s brown-skinned, happens to be in his office, and can fill a diversity quota, is offensive.
The film wants desperately to be more relevant, witty, and meaningful than it actually is. It’s not very funny, and the social commentary feels outdated despite it being set in New York City, present day. The supposed insights are inauthentic and forced, and the characters are either under-written or outrageous caricatures.
White privilege is used as a retort too many times to leave an impact, and the white men behaving badly are unlike any guys I’ve ever known, especially in a liberal office environment. I find it not only difficult, but impossible to believe this is what a network television show’s writer’s room looks like circa 2019. This isn’t real life, it’s a twisted fantasy that is hell-bent on making ‘diversity’ seem like a dirty word.
It’s nice seeing a non-ideal, average female taking the lead as well as an older, established woman being given a meaty role, however. Kaling and Thompson are well cast, but they have little chemistry. Everything about their relationship is off-putting at best and disingenuous at worst.
In the end, “Late Night” stretches as high as it can to hit those lofty ambitions that remain just out of reach. Just because it focuses on a minority woman’s perspective doesn’t make it a good movie. It leaves such a passing impression that I won’t remember having seen it by the end of the year. That’s a shame.