Film Review | Late Night

Hollywood is ground zero when it comes to the cult of personality. Late Night tackles that topic through a Hollywood lens, focused on the trappings of stardom of late night show hosts.

FRESH MEAT: Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is a little too comfortable in her comfort zone, but refuses to be replaced.

FRESH MEAT: Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is a little too comfortable in her comfort zone, but refuses to be replaced.

The doyen of late night hosts was Johnny Carson while Jimmy Fallon and Jay Leno are recent examples.

Late Night explores the travails of chat show superstar Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), an English woman at the helm of a highly successful American late night chat show based in New York.

Katherine Newbury's reign as the ratings leader is running smoothly in her eyes, until she is informed this is her last season as host. Fresh, new talent is being imported to overcome her dated and predictable format. She has become too comfortable in her comfort zone.

She does not see or understand why this has happened. Her team of writers think the jokes and the babble are hitting the mark, even though the ratings have plummeted.

A key issue is Newbury's disregard for her staff and failure to collaborate with them when they are writing for her. They exist in separate worlds. She even assigns them numbers rather than using their actual names. Personality overrules human interaction.

It takes the introduction of a new writer, a woman of Indian heritage, Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), who is hired specifically because she is female and Indian to meet the show's thinly disguised attempt to embrace diversity; in reality, it is tokenism.

Molly is viewed as invisible and irrelevant by the totally male writing team. Until she shows them how to be fresh and relevant again.

The film drops in and out of Newbury's conversion from a self-centred egoist and Molly's persistence in becoming an irrepressible and resilient person.

The film's end shots of a television production office full of staff from diverse ethnic and racial groups is a blatant, overdone attempt to signal the film's credibility as a champion of diversity.

Late Night highlights what happens behind the scenes in a conventional way. It is not a laugh feast but it's not intended to be one. It is clearly designed to highlight how the cult of personality shutters people from the reality of genuine human interaction in the cutthroat world of glamour television.

One imagines that change doesn't happen as easily and cleverly as it does in Late Night, but we don't go to the movies to watch the harsh reality of a world that most of us experience from the lounge room side of our television set.

Late Night makes a significant point wrapped in an easily digestible package.