Tag Archives: emma thompson

Late Night (2019)

15 Jun

With all the competition from streaming services and youtube, 2019 can be a rough time for late night television. Even more so when you are the sole female host in the country and the network’s president is threatening to have you replaced due to sinking ratings.  This is the world of Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), once a multi-award winning comedian who, along with her longtime husband Walter (John Lithgow) are staring down the corridors of irrelevancy. Could hiring a female writer be the the solution to saving the network and making late night comedy culturally relevant again?

Late Night sets about to answer that question in the most clunky, ham-fisted way possible. Directed by Nisha Ganatra and written by co-star Mindy Kailing, most of the movie stumbles in circles over the same ideas regarding women’s empowerment, millennial masculinity, and corporate nepotism. This is would all be fine and dandy if it wasn’t for Late Night’s tendency to exploit cliche after cliche – making almost every character (even the good-intentioned protagonists) seem like absolute frauds.  For a film that markets itself with an edgy anti-patriarchal agenda, most of Late Night feels depressingly sterile and safe. There are a few great threads late in the story that could have amounted to something notable had they been taken care of properly in the first half, but the film is too busy hitting the same tired beats over and over rather than exploring any new ideas with its painfully bland set of characters. Late Night doesn’t have any amount of gritty realism to sustain the amount melodrama it aspires to, but it isn’t smart or brave enough to be much of a social satire either, leaving the film in a mostly flavorless state of limbo.

There are some clever comedic bits sewn about here and there however, and Emma Thompson is such a stunning and charismatic actress that she brings an interesting depth to her character in moments of crisis. But it’s not quite enough to overcome the script’s many blemishes and awkward moments that mostly rob the narrative of any emotional payoff.  Late Night has a powerful statement somewhere – it just struggles to say it in any cohesive or authentic way.

Bottom Line: Despite a stellar leading performance from Emma Thompson, Late Night puts too much emphasis on its socially-woke window dressing and not enough veracity or bite within its message, resulting in a painfully missed opportunity.

Rating: 5.3/10

Film Recipe: Trainwreck + a toothless, sanitized version of Booksmart 

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