MINDY Kaling of The office and The Mindy Project fame brought, yes, wit, but also interesting fashion style to her engaging screenplay-turned-movie Late Night.
As Molly, the bright-eyed bushy-tailed “diversity hire” for a late-night talk show host, Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), Mindy may have written some portions of her own start in television work into script and character. She was by her own admission part of the NBC diversity initiative on The Office writing staff.
The movie can be The Devil Wears Prada of late night talk shows, but it is some much funnier and sweeter too.
Molly, who applied to be a comedy writer for Newbury through the show’s parent company (wow, devious!), was working for a chemical factory but always wanted to write… comedy I guess.
She is hired, against all odds, and joins Newbury’s all-men, and white, writing team. Molly is in a hostile place, with lines like “I wish I was a woman of colour so I could get a job with zero qualification!”, and more.
She really admires Newbury, the madam of American late-night talk shows in this movie, who believes in excellence.
But Newbury is at risk of losing her throne as she says at one impromptu gig, that she is “reaching an age at which Hollywood cues up the music to play you off the stage”.
Newbury decides to reinvent her comedy in a bid to keep her job, and Molly with her candour helps her find her balance in a male-dominated TV world.
I liked it that Newbury’s clothes matched the sentiments of working in the 1980s, when a woman had to play by men’s rules – so she dressed in suits, conformed to their views on issues rather than talk about abortion and menopause, and strove to be better than the next man. She did that, didn’t have children, and jumped through hoops because she is a woman, to be the best. She was.
But Molly says no, that’s not how you do it today. These two main characters are both feminists, and how they meet in the middle is Kaling’s charming arc of a storyline.
There’s some romance in Late Night, with even an extramarital affair with a writer on her team, Charlie (Hugh Dancy) that upsets Newbury’s loving and ill husband, played by John Lithgow.
Mindy stealthily shows how “romance” can not be straightforward. Her Molly has some love moments — first with serial lover Charlie and then Tom (Reid Scot). Who gets her? Watch the end!
The female friendship in the movie is sweet, and that’s rare on screens today. We get more the raunchy Bridesmaids types rather than Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion versions. Could it be that female friendships are seen as a threat to the norm?
Mindy aka Vera Mindy Chokalingam aka Molly makes it fun to be an Asian woman in American comedy – the “diversity hire” — while Thompson brings warm brilliance to her acerbic Newbury character who thaws as the movie unfolds.
Late Night is an offbeat dramedy with satire that’s clever and hilarious. I’d watch it again, on GSC International Screens.