Emma Thomson is essentially a national treasure. Not only a great actress, but a renowned screenwriter (she occasionally doctors scripts uncredited) she is usually the most note-worthy thing of anything she’s in.
Unfortunately, Late Night has flown somewhat under the radar, and paired with a release window surrounded by some of the year’s biggest releases, it seemed destined to be quickly forgotten, truth be told, its premise is hardly the ground-breaking type of material that brings people to the cinemas in their hundreds.
But still, it’s message seems tailor-made for the current generation, and touches on several important issues, albeit in a lighthearted tone, so maybe it has more to offer than first thought.
Kathryn Newbury (Thomson) is a late night chat show host who is facing losing her show following a decade of stagnation and falling ratings. She charges her long-suffering assistant with finding her a female writer, when Molly (Mindy Kaling, who also wrote the screenplay) comes along and starts to shake up the status quo.
One of the biggest charms of Late Night is it’s leading characters. Thomson and Kaling share a decent chemistry, and Thomson in particular seems to revel in her often overly-cruel character, delivering her lines as coolly as a polar bear slowly sinking into icy water.
As I said in the opening few paragraphs, the idea is nothing new, it’s essentially a new spin on the whole ‘outgoing veteran gaining a protege they didn’t want at first’ plot that we have seen many time before, but it is carried by the performance and a varied cast of characters.
Speaking of the characters, the film manages to subvert my expectations about a few of them, one I had earmarked as the one who was inevitably going to try and sabotage our hero, and the other as a long-term love interest, but I was counting my chickens far too early and the film made me pay for it, so kudos for that.
I do feel like some of the character traits were a bit shoe-horned however, it’s revealed part-ways into the film that one of the side characters is suffering from Parkinson’s, and it just feels like it’s been dropped into the narrative with no rhyme or reason, besides to build sympathy, which we already had for this character.
As for the script, it’s sharp and interesting enough to retain attention for its run-time, without ever feeling like it’s going to take off, so to speak. Some of the jokes land, and some fall flat, par for the course with any comedy, but this strikes a balance between the jokes and the serious points it’s trying to make, which is a tightrope it manages rather admirably.
In conclusion then, some enjoyable performances, and a light and breezy script made this a good watch while it lasted, but I doubt it’ll survive long in the memory. A film carried by a likeable double act and a few well put-together jokes, it’s not likely to be up for any awards, but it was fun while it lasted.