Late Night parents guide

Late Night Parent Guide

Solid acting, positive messages about diversity and authenticity, but way too much profanity.

Overall B-

Late night talk show host Katherine Newbury has been struggling to keep her show's ratings up for years. But when her job is threatened, Newbury decides to change things up in her predominantly white and male writers room by hiring Molly Patel, a bright eyed newcomer. But can Molly change things fast enough to save Katherine's job?

Release date June 14, 2019

Violence A
Sexual Content B
Profanity D
Substance Use C

Why is Late Night rated R? The MPAA rated Late Night R for language throughout and some sexual references.

Run Time: 112 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

Late night television host Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) has hosted her hit show for thirty years. Her obsession with excellence has made her highly successful – but at a cost. She bullies her writing team (who are all male), refers to them by numbers because she can’t be bothered to learn their names, doesn’t notice when one of them dies, and fires them on a whim. In one darkly funny scene, she even terminates an employee who asks for a raise to support his growing family, comparing having children to a drug problem.

But Katherine’s disdain for her staff and unwillingness to listen to them has predictable results: falling ratings and a visit from the corporate head who informs her that she has become irrelevant and is being replaced as the host of her own show. Shocked and horrified, Katherine decides it’s time for major changes. After being labeled as a woman who hates women, she decides to hire a female writer to add diversity to her staff. Molly (Mindy Kaling) is a bright and hopeful chemical plant worker who wins a contest that lands her an interview. She becomes the “diversity hire”.

The rest of the film centers around Molly’s fight to find her place, prove herself in the writer’s room, and push Katherine to become more relatable to her viewers, while still being true to herself. And this is where Late Night shines. Its best takeaway is its message about integrity and authenticity. Is Molly willing to sacrifice her principles to succeed? Is Katherine capable of opening up to her colleagues and viewers and building a stronger program based on authenticity instead of contempt and superiority?

As an added bonus, Late Night has a strong subplot featuring Katherine’s relationship with her husband (John Lithgow). What would typically be a cheesy, romantic relationship in a rom-com is replaced with a sweet story of friendship and forgiveness. This is a great message for viewers of any age.

Unfortunately, while the film has solid messages about the values of diversity, achieving success through hard work, and being true to yourself, it suffers from a significant profanity problem. Late Night has at least 50 completely unnecessary swear words, including over two dozen sexual expletives. The movie also features frequent scenes of characters drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes to handle stress. And this is unfortunate. Careful editing could easily have given Late Night a PG-13 rating and exposed teen viewers to its positive messages. But, in its current form Late Night simply demonstrates lazy writing with profanity replacing more nuanced dialogue. And that isn’t funny.

Directed by Nisha Ganatra. Starring Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, and John Lithgow.. Running time: 112 minutes. Theatrical release June 14, 2019. Updated

Watch the trailer for Late Night

Late Night
Rating & Content Info

Why is Late Night rated R? Late Night is rated R by the MPAA for language throughout and some sexual references.

Violence: None noted.
Sexual Content:   A minor plot point involves an adulterous affair with an employee. There is no explicit detail. A main character makes a joke about masturbation. A woman watches a comedian on television as he tells non-explicit jokes about sex. A man and woman kiss passionately. A married couple kiss. A character tells a joke about losing virginity. A man kisses a woman’s fully clothed shoulder. A character makes a joke about an erection.
Profanity: A conservative count gives over 50 profanities along with a half dozen crude anatomical and sexual terms. There are over two dozen sexual expletives, 15 terms of deity and ten scatological terms. The swearing is pervasive.
Alcohol / Drug Use:   Characters, including a main character drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes to handle stress on several occasions.  A character jokes about taking Xanax. There are scenes of social drinking. A man talks about getting high when he was younger.

Page last updated

Late Night Parents' Guide

Many critics have complained about a lack of diversity in Hollywood and on television. Are there many women in late night comedy? Is it common to see women over 50 in movies? Do people of color often get starring roles? What’s the difference between encouraging diversity and tokenism?

Molly is an unexpected hire for the show. What qualities does Molly have that help her to succeed? Other than appearances, how does she stand out from the typical writers she works with?

Loved this movie? Try these books…

Do you think you’ve got what it takes to write comedy? Are you, like Molly, an undiscovered talent? For detailed advice, check out Joe Toplyn’s Comedy Writing for Late Night TV.

Comedy writers share their experiences and tips in And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor writers on Their Craft and the Industry by Mike Sacks.

The brutally competitive world of late night TV is covered in The Late Shift by Bill Carter, which covers the battle between David Letterman and Jay Leno over hosting the Tonight Show.

Books about current late night hosts include Bruce Watson’s Stephen Colbert: Beyond Truthiness and Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

If you enjoyed the actors in Late Night, you’re in luck. Emma Thompson is a doyenne of the British acting world. She has starred in Nanny McPhee, Sense and Sensibility, Last Chance Harvey, The Children Act, The Remains of the Day, and Saving Mr. Banks – to name just a few.

John Lithgow has also been a busy actor, starring most recently in The Tomorrow Man and Pet Sematary. He has also appeared in Interstellar, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Shrek, where he provided the voice talent for Lord Farquaad.

Mindy Kaling has acted in A Wrinkle in Time, and voiced characters in Wreck-It Ralph and Inside Out.