Lip-smacking delight to see Oscar winner
LATE NIGHT (15)
All's fair in love and the war for TV ratings in director Nisha Ganatra's spiky comedy of modern manners, which provides Dame Emma Thompson with a plum role as a veteran talk show host who has grown complacent and lost touch with her viewers.
It's a lip-smacking delight to see the two-time Oscar winner in full comic flow, tossing out polished one-liners or rejecting one male staff member's request for a pay rise following the birth of his second child because it represents "the classic sexist argument for the advancement of men in the workplace".
Scripted with a deft touch by co-star Mindy Kaling, Late Night takes aim at gender equality and diversity in the workplace and occasionally draws blood from well-placed barbs at the expense of mainstream media's obsession with beauty and youth.
Some aspects of the writing are undernourished - one romantic subplot blossoms with almost no on-screen propagation and the emotional fallout of marital betrayal is too neatly contained.
A group of teenagers get an abject lesson in stranger danger when they ask a lonely woman to buy them alcohol, and end up taking the contraband back to her basement.
A couple of jump cuts later and Ma's basement is inexplicably filled with inebriated, under-supervised juveniles, and more robot dancing than Peter Crouch's podcast. What ensues is a horror film for the post-Get Out era - Ma aims for fear by social awkwardness, and comes complete with racial undertones, social media scare tactics, and a somewhat botched anti-bullying message. It's gratifyingly bonkers. The set pieces are self-aware and schlocky, the third act features genuinely inventive nastiness, and Octavia Spencer oozes screen presence as the malevolent Ma.