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Mindy Kaling, Emma Thompson

“LATE NIGHT” My rating: C+ (Opens wide on June 14)

112 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The funniest moments in Nisha Ganatra’s “Late Night” depict the consternation of a bunch of Ivy League-educated white-guy TV joke writers upon earning that they have to share their workplace with a woman.

A woman of color.

A woman who is as nice as they are jaded.

“Late Night” was written by (and stars) comedy phenom Mindy Kaling, who knows what it’s like to be the only minority woman in the joint. While in interviews Kaling has taken pains to point out that she personally was never treated as badly as her character is, her depiction of life in a male-dominated writers’ room roils with sexual conflict and class consciousness.

In other words, on certain topics the film is as timely as hell.

Alas, in other important areas it feels tired, cliched and passe.

The ever-watchable Emma Thompson stars as Katherine Newbury, long-time host of a late-night TV talk show.  Early on she’s paid a visit by a network bigwig (Amy Ryan) who almost gleefully informs her that she’s being replaced with someone hipper, funnier and more willing to push the envelope.

Faced with a career that is circling the drain,  Katherine makes a rare appearance in her show’s writers’ room to stir up the troops. She doesn’t really know these guys and in fact  has banned them from the set.  Unwilling to learn their names, she assigns each of them a number.

Perhaps some diversity would help. How about a woman writer?

Enter Molly (Kaling), an aspiring comic who works in a chemical plant and only gets a job interview because the same conglomerate that owns her factory also owns the network.  Against all odds — and with absolutely no professional resume —  she’s hired.

(more…)

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