After the explosion of imminent and holiday-timed releases in the trailer industry in April, in early May we’re inevitably back to (relatively) smaller releases. Still, Mindy Kaling’s upcoming release Late Night reminds us there's much to love about human-scale feats of storytelling.
The beginning of the trailer plays a bit off of the aural design of trailers past by at first appearing to intone the slightly-gravelly, “in a world” style extradiegetic dialogue, but we then realize it’s the introduction to an in-film awards show.
After the studio card (this time brought to you by Amazon Studios), a perfunctory rhythm track is stopped at 0:18 for the one-off line by Katherine Newberry (Emma Thompson).
Molly (Mindy Kaling) is then given a stylized introduction with a title card taking up half the screen, an unusual design more reminiscent of an introduction to, well, a late night show than a movie trailer.
At 0:57 we hear “What You’re Worth” by Mandisa (featuring Britt Nicole) along with the date card (June 7th). “What You’re Worth” is a recent (2017) track with obvious lyrical connotations (“Come on, ladies / You gotta fight / Stand up strong”). It stops at 1:03, this time in more of a dramatic moment as Kaling’s character appears to overstep her bounds a little as a new hire and the dialogue that follows shows the film is unafraid to get into some pointedly political territory, and necessarily so given the script’s conceit.
Around 1:25 we get a second song, the funkier “Make Me Feel” Janelle Monáe (again a recent song, of 2018 vintage). The lyrics that are presented between the dialogue (“it’s like I’m powerful”) speak to the negotiated power dynamics between Kaling, a younger woman of colour, and Thompson, a relatively older white woman. One new segment for the late night show that results is a pointed lampooning of the “white saviour” trope—a good illustration of how comedy remains a great way to present such issues in society.
In all, “Late Night” isn’t unusual in its use of recent, relevant music, or its editing for comedic and dramatic timing, but it does have an interesting opening that slightly plays on our past expectations of what trailers comprised, and it does play a bit around the conventions of the late night show genre, which makes sense given its subject matter.
“Late Night” will be released in theatres in the United States June 7th.
— Curtis Perry