Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 400-Word Review: Late Night

Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling star in a comedy that's more pleasant than it is funny.




Photo by Emily Aragones / Amazon Studios
 

Unfortunately, we still have to look to fiction to depict a world where a woman — or anyone other than a middlebrow, slightly smarmy white man — is permitted to host a late-night talk show.

Despite the cruel reminder that some disparities remain unaddressed in the real 2019, “Late Night” is a decidedly pleasant watch. Starry-eyed young plant worker Molly (Mindy Kaling) lands her dream job writing for late-show legend Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) after the host is called out for a lack of diversity in her writers’ room. The job isn’t what she had imagined, however; her ideas are mostly ignored, the staff is mostly apathetic and Newbury is mostly sinister.

Newbury is told by a network higher-up (Amy Ryan) that she’ll be removed from the air after a year and replaced by a lowbrow, jabbering up-and-comer (Ike Barinholtz, aping early-2000s Dane Cook). The drive for new ideas spotlights what Molly has to offer; unfortunately, the boss might be too surly to appreciate her young charge, and the network may be too committed to their hacky new talent to change course.

Don’t believe the advertising; “Late Night” is not a off-kilter, Apatow-esque comedy. That infernal word “dramedy” probably applies here; the film is funny, sure, but it’s more eager to delve into network drama than pack each scene with gags. It’s an approach that makes sense. The outwardly innocuous world of late night is rife with conflict: the Letterman-Leno feud, the tragedy of Conan, the swirling what-is-comedy debate around Jimmy Fallon. (If you haven’t seen the disaster that resulted when James Corden tried to do a Q&A session on Reddit, it is worth your time.)

These little fiefdoms of daily commentary continue to fascinate and feud, and “Late Night” feels like an authentic trip backstage. In that, it’s helped immensely by Thompson, a sublimely talented performer who lends internal life to Newbury in almost astounding measure. (John Lithgow’s turn, as Newbury’s ailing husband, is itself a small treasure.)

Kaling doesn’t quite have the chops to match with Thompson as a thespian but remains an affable and witty presence. “Late Night” is a bit too concerned with ancillary bits of her journey — her relationships with the other writers, chiefly a monologist played by Reid Scott, are exhaustively depicted — but it hardly matters. It may be little more than a watchable yarn, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

My Rating: 7/10

"Late Night" opens in wide release on Friday, June 14.
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Why These 6 Days in 1969 Were So Important to Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, but we're not the only ones. We take a look at six notable events from 1969.

Women in Power: The Pros Changing Allegheny County

Allegheny County breaks the old boys’ club by placing women in key positions.

Growing Together: Farmers and Chefs Elevate Pittsburgh Dining

These seven farmer/chef pairings are leading the charge toward more vital vegetable dishes.

Afraid to Go to the Dentist? Consider the Sedation Solution

For some patients, dental work wouldn’t be possible if they were fully alert.

Restaurant Review: Spirits & Tales at the Oaklander Hotel

Executive chef Jessica Lewis’ strong voice is undermined by inconsistencies throughout the restaurant.

Perspectives: A Big Life

A former newspaper reporter's assignment leads to a lifelong friendship with a man who battled a food addiction.

George S. Kaufman’s Sensational Scandal

The Pittsburgh-born playwright made tabloid headlines in the 1930s. (it didn’t slow him down a bit.)

You Can Ride a Roller Coaster Classic

Roller coaster history is hidden nearby — and not where you might think.

Tea, Cake and Death: A Safe Place to Discuss a Scary Subject

“Death Cafes” seek to reduce taboos around the act of dying.

How He Makes the Mundane Sound Magical

Experimental sound artist R. Weis creates otherworldly sonic compositions from everyday materials.

Uber’s New Service Puts Riders in the Driver’s Seat

Passengers in Pittsburgh now can pay for a most customized experience with Uber Comfort.

The 400-Word Review: Secret Obsession

Netflix is on a bit of a hot streak with its original thrillers. Unfortunately, this dud isn't part of it.

After Dark Hall of Fame: Primanti Bros.

The beloved bar-and-restaurant chain has become a Pittsburgh emblem. It's the 10th inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.

Do You Want to Pay More Taxes to Improve Parks?

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy hopes to restore the city’s parks to their former glory, but they may need a tax increase to do so.

The Latest Restaurant and Bar Openings in Pittsburgh

We say hello to a new concept from Justin Severino, a summer-long dance pop-up and a new spot for cocktails.