Mindy Kaling hasn’t really carried a film like this before, so I was definitely curious going in. She had ensemble roles in both A Wrinkle in Time and Ocean’s Eight, but carrying a comedy like this as the lead is quite a different story. Let’s see how she did!
Molly Patel (Kaling) is hired on as a new writer on the longstanding late night show hosted by Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), who has just discovered they’re planning to replace her. So, Newbury needs to find a way to bring this show into relevancy again, while Patel struggles with being the only woman of color in a white male-dominated office.
We also have John Lithgow as Newbury’s husband, Ike Barinholtz as a rude upcoming comedian, and Amy Ryan (The Office) as the President of the network who is shutting Newbury down. We also have a writing staff including Hugh Dancy, Reid Scott, Denis O’Hare, and Paul Walter Hauser.
While Kaling does a fine job here, it’s really Emma Thompson’s movie. She is the heart of this thing, struggling to reinvent herself amidst all sorts of personal tragedies. Kaling’s Molly helps her grow and confront these things, but seeing Thompson’s performance here is the highlight of the film. Emma Thompson is great in nearly everything she’s in, but this might be up there with some of her best work, even if the movie itself isn’t elevated that highly.
In terms of comedy, I found this movie pretty funny and clever, though it hits many of the same notes as the television show 30 Rock, so it can feel a bit redundant if you’ve seen that show. I laughed a lot, so if you’re looking for escapism, this will do it for you.
What doesn’t work?
Like I said, Mindy Kaling is billed as the lead here but it feels like she’s just supporting Thompson’s performance. Not bad, just maybe misadvertised. You won’t get anything from Kaling that you haven’t seen from her before, which can be a good thing if you’re already a fan.
This movie falls right down the middle for me. I laughed but even now as I try to write this, I have a hard time remembering the jokes and what parts I enjoyed, which usually indicates that a movie doesn’t have much staying power.
This is a fine movie, with a decent performance from Mindy Kaling. The real star is Emma Thompson, though the movie itself isn’t really memorable enough to stand out in the long run. If you want some laughs and a few hours of escapism, this will do it, but don’t expect much more.