Film review: Late night – clever but safe

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Late night screenwriter and (supporting) actress, Mindy Kaling, certainly has a gentle touch when it comes to dealing with heavy issues. And she sure packs a bunch of relevant issues into a mere 102 minutes. It is a great pity, then, that she played it so safe with this film. You get the sense that she has a lot to say, and that it would be worthwhile listening to, but that she ultimately toned it down to make it more palatable, and possibly not be crucified by the Twitterati. What a waste of talent all around, because, along with Emma Thompson as your lead, your spokesperson, you could’ve burnt the house down.

The script is clever, the humour dry and the pace very comfortable. Emma Thompson is perfect for the role, and, as far as I understand, Kaling wrote it with her in mind. (I found the Katherine Newbury, talk show host wardrobe a tad too dramatic. We know she does not suffer fools gladly. The austere hairstyle, jackets and shoes were not necessary. It became a distraction for this viewer.)

The major issue Late night grapples with is how superficial TV, and life in general, has become. How substance has been substituted for likes, views and followers. How we save face instead of saying what we feel. The narcissism of it all.

The film also wrestles with being a diversity hire, and, interestingly enough, when you need to get over yourself and accept the help you are being offered, even though it comes from an unlikely ally.

Another sentiment I appreciated was that to achieve success and happiness, you don’t have to be a genius, or even the all-American go-getter, a goal that is not achievable for most of us. The film echoes the sentiment by not boring us with a genius “Hollywood” moment, a hellraiser speech or easy solution. Ten out of ten for that.

In conclusion, Kaling and Thompson poke the bear with humour, class and wit. That in itself makes the movie worth seeing, and a great start to Kaling’s screenwriting career. If only they had gone for broke.

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