There’s an element of metafiction about Late Night that makes the main character, Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), much more sympathetic than she ought to be. In an early scene, the successful late-night television chat show host states that she’s not part of the mainstream. She doesn’t watch superhero movies and she isn’t on Twitter or other forms of social media. Although there’s an obstinate pride to her claim, it’s also a complaint to illustrate what she’s up against. She wants people with substance to be guests on her show, and refuses to dumb down to the level of her competitors.
It’s a self-reflexive moment for the audience. We know, even at this early stage, that we are watching something with wit and ideas. It’s an original story with original characters competing for eyeballs with superhero movies and other franchises. Like Katherine’s show, the film itself is fighting an uphill battle. Now more than ever, mid- to small-budget films are going largely unnoticed and are being squeezed out of cinemas by big studio blockbusters.