Late Night was one of the hottest properties to come out of this year's Sundance Festival. It's easy to see why. It's the smartest comedy you'll see this summer. (Yesterday is the most magical. Good Boys is the raunchiest.) Mindy Kaling is a triple threat as star, writer, and producer. She plays a diversity hire who is brought onto Emma Thompson's late night show writing staff. Thompson is in danger of being replaced and the show needs a female voice.
Aside from the recent Beauty and the Beast remake where she played Mrs. Potts, I hadn't seen Emma Thompson in anything since Saving Mr. Banks six years ago. In Late Night, she is reborn. She looks amazing. She plays the boss from hell a la The Devil Wears Prada. But she also has some good scenes with her husband played by John Lithgow. She gets to do something she’s never done before—an American dark comedy. And she’s brilliant. With Kaling’s writing and Thompson’s performance, what could have been a one-note character becomes a complex performance. I think Thompson has an early shot at Best Actress. She manages to go from a villain to someone you’re rooting for by the end.
Kaling is fun in the role of the naïve newcomer who has to fight for her place in the boys club. The writers room is so white, I actually couldn't keep two of the characters straight. And they were significant to the plot. But I think that only makes the film's point even more.
While the movie doesn't ultimately capture your heart the same way as The Big Sick did, it still sets itself apart from the rest of the summer comedies. I wouldn't be surprised to see it get a Best Original Screenplay nod for Kaling. It may have steep competition though. The Farewell and Brittany Runs a Marathon, also Sundance darlings, have yet to be released. And new release Yesterday may steal some of Late Night's thunder. Stay tuned for that review coming soon.