Late Night (2019): ‘A Pebble in the Landslide’ – A Film Review



Late Night is a film about late night talk show hosts and ageing fame. Almost existing as a vehicle for Emma Thompson (Katherine Newbury), Late Night manages to be more than this. A Comedy/Drama, Late Night is extremely dependent on the cast, script and certainly the dialogue. This is the kind of modest film that can easily fly under the radar. Comedies and Dramas are however a vibrant genre and there are no signs of the genre slowing, but, instead, they’re always fighting the competition of other films and the appeal of the big blockbusters. What makes these films succeed is something else.


Script and Stars

Late Night manages a star persona whilst balancing out the cast with its supporting actors. A film with one central figure can easily be about that figure and there is a small sense in which characters need to come into their own and become memorable. The central idea is placed heavily on Emma Thompson’s Katherine Newbury and Mindy Kaling‘s Molly Patel. If their performances don’t work for you then the film is in trouble. The script (also by Kaling) provides a lot of cutting edge wit and some down to earth moments. The dialogue manages a more human level despite the content. There is a sense that Late Night doesn’t hold back, despite being a big budget production. This mostly comes across in the sparing use of other characters, which does, however, hold back the films complexity of scope.


Late Night Laughs

Whilst there are some beautiful shots in Late Night this is far from the films focus and that’s part of the point. What it manages is a tone that pushes the characters, situations and stories, rather than style or humour – which would be the film’s potential downfall. In Late Night the humour is specific to the moment and sometimes a bit vulgar, which brings the film to a more personal level. This benefits the film because it helps the characters to feel more realistic and intimate, you’re able to see their true sides. This focus for Late Night is risky but it’s pulled off with a good balance. Late Night plays it safe but on, also, strangely on the edge. Entertaining and moderately unpredictable but with the basic plot points being traditional, whilst never pushing things too far to be too memorable.



Late Night is a successful but partly forgettable film. The initial concept is unique and interesting; and the performances are strong with a good script in dialogue, but it’s never too daring, in narrative construction. We have, in fact, seen many tales of the out of touch middle aged character, and the unconventional nature of new ideas, and embracing diversity. It’s well made and easy to look at but unless you’re big on Emma Thompson or Mindy Kaling, then it perhaps wouldn’t strike as big a chord as the film would like. Decidedly mediocre, but a great mediocrity and a fine Comedy/Drama. It just lacks staying power.



The ageing Katherine Newbury finds that her Late Night comedy show is getting behind the times and she’s going to be replaced, unless she’s able to do something about it. With the help of a new unconventional comedy writer she starts to look at things in a new light.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Late Night (d. Nisha Ganatra USA 2019)


Further Reading

Official Site

Interview with Emma Thompson

Interview with Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling

Interview with Mindy Kaling

In the Writer’s Room


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This was an analytical review of….


Late Night (d. Nisha Ganatra USA 2019)

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