This year’s Sundance Film Festival might have just found its first commercial hit with Mindy Kaling’s “Late Night,” a comedy that has a bunch of laughs, a lot of heart and a whole lot of Emma Thompson.
The film premiered on Friday night to a crowded Eccles Theatre. Director Nisha Ganatra made the introductions to a crowd that was about to be the first to see the film, which Kaling also wrote.
Twenty seconds into the first scene, the crowd already had plenty to laugh about. Thompson plays legendary late night host Katherine Newbury, who is accused of being a “woman who hates women.” She goes out of her way to prove to her coworkers and fans that that’s not true, hiring Molly (Kaling), a woman, and a woman of color, to add to her mostly white male writers room. Molly wants to prove she’s not just a diversity hire, but in the process causes Katherine to look at her personal life.
Politics, gender issues and race are at the forefront of this female-centric comedy that has a clear message: Women should take matters into their own hands. Whether it’s Molly walking onto the stage where no other writer but one has set foot, or Katherine deciding she’s not going be told what to discuss on her show, the message is there that women have opinions and should express them, rather than being forced into silence by a toxic work environment or male white privilege.
Thompson is, simply put, amazing in this role. She plays a woman you are supposed to hate but actually end up loving, in a role and performance reminiscent of Meryl Streep’s in “The Devil Wears Prada.” It’s all about balancing one’s personal and professional lives, and the film dismisses the idea that women must be “nice” or defy aging to succeed in the workplace. And let’s be honest — who wouldn’t want to see Thompson as a late night host? Anyone?
A couple of jokes here and there received some audible groans and awkward “Oh, my Gods,” but overall the jokes were met with full-bellied laughs at the Eccles. There were also references to the #MeToo movement and Hollywood sex scandals aplenty, so the timeliness of the film was unmissable.
After the credits rolled and the cast got up on stage for a Q&A, Kaling revealed that she wrote the role for Thompson, who couldn’t be at the screening that night due to her shooting schedule. Also, the film had an equal number of women as it did men behind the camera.
In the lobby afterwards, the buzz continued, with viewers calling it “the first hit of the festival” and “delightful,” and predicting a quick sale.