“Late Night” is a fun and witty comedy tackling the struggles faced by women in comedy. Written by Mindy Kaling (“The Office” and “The Mindy Project”) and directed by Nisha Ganatra (“Chutney Popcorn,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), fellow South Asians have a lot to be excited about with this film. We’re finally moving past merely being the token ‘Indian’ in Hollywood movies — which, without giving too much away, is joked about in the film. With two South Asian women in the driver’s seat, “Late Night” hones in on problems that women of color, specifically, face in the comedy world.
Two time Academy Award winner, Emma Thompson (“Sense and Sensibility,” “Howards End”), plays Katherine Newbury, a seasoned, female late night talk-show host among the sea of male hosts. She is the only woman to ever have a long-running show on late night television. Despite being a legend in her field, her ratings plummet and the network president is ready to replace her with a younger, hip, male comedian. But after spending 30 years pioneering and hosting her show, she isn’t ready to give it all up so easily. Katherine immediately demands her all white, male writing staff help save her show by making her funny and relatable again. And when she’s called a “woman who hates women,” she promptly hires her first and only female writer on her staff, Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), a chemical plant quality control expert from Pennsylvania.
Molly, who idolizes Katherine, is determined to turn her show and career around, proving her worth as a writer rather than a pity, diversity hire. But with no experience in television or comedy, this becomes quite the challenge for Molly. She pushes Katherine to reveal her true self, be more authentic and to express her stance on important gender and political issues publicly, rather than just privately. But is this enough to save the show? Or are Molly’s ideas too provocative for this hyper-masculine world of comedy?
Unsure what to expect from “Late Night,” I left pleasantly surprised by how much I laughed, how touched I was, and most surprisingly, how relevant it all seemed. Kaling’s astute awareness of the judgements being passed about her and her witty retorts will have you chuckling in your seat. And as the plot progresses, you may surprisingly find yourself rooting for Katherine, despite her ruthless personality. This isn’t your average, intelligent, workplace comedy. Kaling’s writing confronts real issues of sexism, ageism and political debates that we’re still having across the country.
But even more impressive, is how Kaling and Ganatra together, so effortlessly, shine a light on many of the overlooked experiences that burden South Asian women in fields dominated by white males — all while making you laugh out loud. Yes, “Late Night” is centered around the comedy industry specifically, but you don’t have to be interested in the inner workings of comedy to appreciate the writing and performances of the brilliant cast.
If you’re a South Asian, “Late Night” is a very relatable, must see that pushes the boundaries for South Asians in Hollywood. If you’re not South Asian, it is (hopefully) an eye-opening comedy that hilariously reveals the struggles that women of color face in any male-dominated field.
“Late Night” opens Friday, June 7th, exclusively in New York and Los Angeles and nationwide on Friday, June 14th. And for those in Los Angeles, this Saturday Mindy Kaling herself will take part in Q&As after the 7:00 pm screening on Saturday, June 8th at the Arclight Hollywood, and after two afternoon screenings at the Landmark on Sunday, June 9th.