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Late Night


Stars: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, Amy Ryan, Hugh Dancy, John Lithgow, Ike Barinholtz, Sakina Jaffrey

Director: Nisha Ganatra

Sluggish from the start, this relentlessly foul-mouthed comedy about a TV chat show hostess never really gets going. Co-star Kaling also wrote the script, which prompts us to think she should have stuck to her acting chores.

Katherine Newbury (Thompson) has been doing her show for two decades, for the latter years of which her ratings have been steadily sliding, reflecting her preference for politicians as guests rather than showbiz celebrities.

She hardly ever sees her battery of scriptwriters and, when she does, refers to them by numbers. Her haughty manners alienate everyone and it's no surprise when her boss (Ryan, stealing the film) tells her that the present season will be her last.

The only shoulder she has to cry on is that that of her older husband (Lithgow, in a carefully-considered performance) who, once a famous pianist, is in the middle stages of Parkinson's.

Into this foetid atmosphere steps chubby Indian-American Molly Patel (Kaling), whose only previous experience of writing funny lines is the stand-up intercom she performs for her co-workers at the factory. But, with the urgent need to add an ethnic female to Katherine's writing team reaching desperation stage, Molly finds herself hired.

This is a perfect setting for a feelgood comedy with moments that call for the tissues, but the film fails to come close to hitting this inviting target. Kaling should be lovable but isn't, while Thompson, although as enjoyable as ever, doesn't have the material to flesh her character out to our ultimate satisfaction..

It's OK entertainment, but at the same time an opportunity missed. New York locations for once fail to add background atmosphere.

David Quinlan

USA 2019. UK Distributor: entertainmentOne. Colour by Arri.
103 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 07 Jun 2019