A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Late Night is a comedy about a late night TV talk show host (Emma Thompson) who tries to shake up her gone-stale show by hiring a woman (Mindy Kaling) for her all-male writers' room. A subplot involves an extramarital affair, characters talk about offscreen sex, and a couple of characters fall in love, but all viewers see on-screen is kissing. Adults drink (and at least one smokes), but no one acts drunk, and there are no references to drugs. Language is infrequent but includes "f--k," "f---ing," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "goddammit," "dips--t," and "bulls--t." Parents who watch with teens who can handle all of that content will appreciate the movie's positive messages about hard work, courage, perseverance, tolerance, and authenticity. One of the movie's leads is a woman in her 50s and another is a woman of color -- both are relatively rare main character types, and both are given humanized, non-stereotypical, relatable roles in which they get to make many points about ageism, sexism, classism, and racism.
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What's the story?
Written by and starring Mindy Kaling, LATE NIGHT tells the story of Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), the only late night talk show host on the air. Her show used to be groundbreaking, but now it's gotten stale -- and network head Caroline Morton (Amy Ryan) informs Katherine that she only has one season left before she'll be replaced by someone younger and cooler (and male). Desperate to prove herself, Newbury decides that what she needs is a female writer in her all-male, Ivy League-educated writers' room. Enter Molly Patel (Kaling), who is mocked by her resentful co-workers as a "diversity hire" but who also has fresh ideas. Can she make her new boss listen -- and revitalize a show that's meant so much to her over the years?
Is it any good?
With a sweet romcom beating heart at its center -- even if the "romance" is a platonic friendship between two formidable women -- this movie is predictable but lots of fun. The main thing that sells it is Kaling, who hasn't been this charming since The Office. Improbably handed a network TV writing job, Molly's radiant happiness at this life-changing event is beautiful to behold. "I just really, really love television," she explains through tears; it's easy to picture a young Kaling having the same reaction when she landed her first writing job -- for The Office, through NBC's diversity program. (It's clear that Kaling was taking notes.) "I'd rather be a diversity hire than a nepotism hire," Molly says to snippy head monologue writer Tom (Reid Scott). "At least I had to beat out every other woman and minority to get here. You just had to be born."
Zing! It may be hard for certain types of viewers to resist giving a little fist pump to lines like this and others that skewer (among other things) white privilege, ageism, misogyny, and classism. Through it all, Molly is a fearless underdog who (eventually) -- spoiler alert, but you knew it was coming anyway -- succeeds through talent and hard work in a workplace that's so hostile to women that the women's bathroom is used exclusively by Newbury's male staff for bowel movements. It's a joy to watch. And while it's a shame that Kaling seemingly has to create these types of meaty, nuanced roles for herself and other women, it's great that she does.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how realistic Late Night is. Are there any female late night talk show hosts? Do women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s have a harder time finding roles in entertainment? What about women of color?
How does Molly measure up as a role model? How does she get her big break? What qualities help her to succeed? How does the movie suggest to viewers how hard she works and how talented she is?
- In theaters: June 7, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: September 5, 2019
- Cast: Mindy Kaling, Emma Thompson, John Lithgow, Hugh Dancy, John Early, Ike Barinholtz
- Director: Nisha Ganatra
- Studio: Amazon Studios
- Genre: Comedy
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout and some sexual references
- Last updated: November 13, 2019
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