Having turned a stand-up career into rolled-gold Hollywood stardom, Emma Thompson is one of the industry’s real survivors.
From Shakespearean turns through Richard Curtis rom com Love Actually, she’s a ubiquitous presence in British film.
Sometimes it seems there’s a law requiring Thompson to appear in movies made there.
She even brought a bit of desperately needed oomph during her microscopic screen time in the disastrously rebooted Men In Black series.
But as glittering as her resume is, she’s had to fight hard for it.
Facing down ageism and sexism along the way, the star – recently snapped hanging in the pub with Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby – has never pulled her punches.
“I remember somebody saying to me that I was too old for Hugh Grant, who’s like a year younger than me in [their 1995 film] Sense and Sensibility,” she told Vulture magazine in 2015.
“I said, ‘Do you want to go take a flying leap?’”
This sort of stupidity is a regular occurrence.
“I remember saying years and years ago, when I was 35, that they’d have to exhume somebody to play my leading man,” Thompson adds.
“Nothing’s changed in that regard. If anything, it’s got worse.”
At 60, Thompson is 15 years younger than her on-screen husband (The Crown star John Lithgow) in fun new comedy Late Night.
Directed by Nisha Ganatra (Transparent, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) Late Night sees Thompson play Katherine Newbury. A successful late-night comedy host in the vein of Stephen Colbert or Samantha Bee, she has rested on her laurels and finds a young, decidedly misogynistic comedian (Ike Barinholtz) snapping at her heels.
It’s written by comedian Mindy Kaling, who co-stars as Molly, a chemistry plant worker who sets her sights on a switch into comedy writing.
Molly is snapped up by Katherine, somewhat mercenarily, as a “diversity hire” to inject cultural capital into the show and arrest the ratings slump.
With a touch of The Devil Wears Prada about her, Katherine is a far from ideal boss.
She fires at will random men whose name she never learned and drives Molly extra hard.
Amusingly, fellow Brit Hugh Dancy (Hannibal) and Veep’s Reid Scott are reduced to the sort of sideline-duelling love interest roles way too many female actors are stuck with.
Tackling ageism, sexism, privilege and racism, Kaling’s script doesn’t quite have the snappy one-liner ratio or political nous required for a movie set in this industry, but Thompson is as magnetic as ever and their chemistry together sparkles.
Ironically enough, given that’s kinda the problem with many of these writers’ rooms, there are a few too many men knocking around.
That distracts from the good stuff between the women, particularly the different levels of privilege enjoyed by Katherine and Molly.
A plotline involving the studio boss (Amy Ryan) behind the push to unseat Katherine is too thinly sketched and easily resolved.
It might not be perfect, but it’s a fun Friday night option and Thompson, incandescent as ever, is worth staying up for.