In life, it’s important to remember one key fact: it’s never too late to achieve your dreams. Sure, most of us die trying, but I’ll take that over just giving up any day…
…Comedians know this better than anyone. In a career spent largely in empty night clubs and tiny coffee shops, there’s a desperation to get out and hit it big, with a dime-a-dozen competition willing to slit your throat for a good gig. People can be monsters in the name of success, a concept which D.W. Thomas’ Too Late takes to a literal level.
Written by Tom Becker, Too Late centers around Violet (Alyssa Limperis), a woman with dreams of being a standup comedian and hosting her own successful show. The problem? She’s the assistant to the highly successful comedian Bob Devore (Ron Lynch), who constantly dangles career carrots in front of her without ever giving her a taste, wasting her time and her talent. The other problem? Bob also happens to be a man-eating monster that Violet needs to feed every so often, or else. So, when Violet falls for an up and coming comic named Jimmy (Will Weldon), who Bob also takes a certain liking to, things get dangerously complicated.
Constantly hit on by creeps looking for a foot in the door and trapped in a dead-end job where the dick-head boss keeps promising you that promotion and gives it to someone they just met after years of you working for them…sound familiar? We’ve all probably been there, and it’s that relatability to Violet and her struggle that is the defining strength of Too Late. Limperis is painfully endearing as Violet, delivering a sweet and hopeful performance that is all the more tragic when things don’t work out for her. “I’m on an island,” Violet tells her personal cheerleader/roommate, Belinda (played with an infectious joy by Jenny Zigrino). We’ve all felt like that. There’s a certain loneliness in those who feel they have more to offer to the world yet can’t seem to find the crack in the wall to break through. Too Late is an emotional heavy hitter for anyone with a dream, captured beautifully by Limperis’ performance.
Accentuating that performance is Lynch as Violet’s literal monster of a boss. Played like Vincent Price meets Jerry Seinfeld, Lynch is gleefully ghoulish in the role. Lynch projects that odd charm that every asshole boss like Bob uses to get away with screwing others over. “Violet would never leave me,” he tells people in front of her, a guilt-trip in the form of a threat. Bob is the perfect personification of a cruel superior that we love to hate, occasionally wearing his internal black-hearted monster on the outside.
Relatable characters and poignant themes of career struggles aside though, Too Late is a horror comedy that finds itself getting booed off the stage in both areas.
Set in the world of comics and packed full of real-life comedians, Too Late is fifty percent mediocre horror film and fifty percent Seinfeld-style stand-up interruptions, with jokes that fizzle more than they land (though to their credit, none are as eye-rolling as Jerry’s “what’s the deal with airline food” routine). It’s distracting enough to constantly pull the audience away from the story for a “bit”, so when the jokes are consistently swinging and missing, it becomes difficult to stay engaged with Too Late. I won’t pretend that I’m an expert on stand-up comedy—if I had a dime for every time I made someone laugh I’d be broke—but part of the problem here is that stand-up in itself is storytelling, and so when every routine we’re seeing is only being given a minute or so of screen-time, that comedian isn’t allowed the time necessary to capture the audience before nailing them with the punchline.
I wish I was joking when I said that the horror is even less effective.
The idea of a monster of a boss being an actual monster is an entertaining one, but Too Late rarely plays up the terror of that. By the time we meet Violet, she’s already well aware of Bob’s late night habits, and often comes off as more annoyed by him than afraid of him. Of course, I can sort of understand why when Bob’s “monster” form looks more like a tired version of himself with long fingernails. Mikel Hurwitz’s quirky soundtrack and the visually dull look of the film don’t help much in building the suspense, either.
Too Late wants to be funnier. It wants to be scarier. But as a whole, Too Late is too casual in its presentation. For a runtime of just eighty minutes, it chugs along at a pace as awkward as on-stage crickets.
The film feels like a bunch of friends getting together to make a movie, which is charming in its own right, but an array of fun, likeable characters with solid chemistry doesn’t make up for the lack of thrills. Like the poster says, "comedy is a matter of taste", and Too Late offers a type of comedy that won't work for everyone. But, if you love oddball horror comedies that are more quirky than funny, or you’re a connoisseur of late-night standup, Too Late is a film made specifically for you that you may get a kick out of. As for the rest of you, you’re better off escorting this one off stage.
Too Late arrives in limited theaters and on VOD/Digital June 25th from Gravitas Ventures.
By Matt Konopka