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Film review: Late Night 

Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling light up Nisha Ganatra’s comedy.


Nisha Ganatra's Late Night ignited a bidding war at this year's Sundance Film Festival—and as in nearly every Sundance bidding-war story, save Once and Garden State, it has ended with disappointing box office returns. But what other reaction could you possibly expect to a movie this sharp, feminist, self-aware and fresh? Booksmart was a financial disappointment too, and there is no better movie yet this year.

Mindy Kaling wrote Late Night for Emma Thompson—what a life—and co-stars as Molly, an aspiring comedy writer with no experience who trips into a job on Thompson's fading decades-old talk show. She's dismissed, in a non-cartoonish way, as a token diversity hire by the rest of the all-male writing staff (Hugh Dancy and Denis O'Hare among them). Katherine is grappling with her own internalized misogyny and looming irrelevance while facing the prospect of her show—her indentity—ending.

This is Thompson's richest role since The Children Act—rocking close-cropped hair, platform kicks and hot suits, she is doubtlessly the boss but it's not some one-note bitch-on-wheels performance, she digs deep into three dimensions with empathy and wit. Kaling, leaning hard into her romcom inclinations, mostly keeps up with her formidable scene partner. John Lithgow puts in a lovely appearance as Katherine's husband.

Late Night is directed by an Indian-American woman, written by and co-starring another and toplined by a woman who just turned 60. That this film was made at all—let alone caused a money-throwing frenzy—is shocking. That anyone gets to see it is a gift and a privilege, so get to it. —TT

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