What would you do if someone promised you your wildest dreams on a silver platter? Would you be willing to sell your soul? That’s the question comedy booker Violet is forced to answer when her abusive boss makes her pay for career advancement with her life. Quite literally.
[Spoiler-free review. Read my companion interview with Too Late film director D.W. Thomas here!]
Violet is a hardworking personal assistant to famed comedian Bob Devore, host of the long-running talent showcase Too Late. She signs her life away to Bob in the form of this all-consuming job in hopes of surfing off his coveted recommendation and connections in the future. If only she can please him in the present that is, with his nonstop demands and endless invasions on her personal time. To fuel her passion, Violet fulfills herself by booking her own comedy show on the side, helping comedians get a leg up with stage time at a local coffee shop. She’s willing to play the waiting game with Bob – until her roommate/bestie and a new love interest intervene to help her realize she’s outgrown this fruitless position. But Bob isn’t going to let Vi get away that easily. Not when there’s a pesky little secret that binds them together in a very surprising way…
Oh, my god – I am so excited about this movie! It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a unique premise carried off so deftly. I shan’t dare spoil it for you, though the implications that Bob is a monster are quite clear from the trailer and poster art. But what an excellent monster Bob is – he’s the perfect allegory for the absolute nightmare that the entertainment industry can be for willing novices ready to feed themselves to an insatiable, uncaring machine. And Violet is the perfect foil – complicit in underhanded deeds as she grapples with a shifting moral compass and the ongoing struggle to remain pure of heart. Who’s the real monster? The answer, sometimes, is both.
The film is a lean 82 minutes and it’s as close to perfection for a dark comedy that I’ve come across in ages. Nothing is wasted here, and the high production value elevates its quirky indie status. Too Late is the debut feature for both director D.W. Thomas and writer Tom Becker – and if this is the opening offering, we’ve got a lot to look forward to from these talented people.
In addition, the cast is sheer perfection. Alyssa Limperis (as Violet) shines in the lead role, effortlessly holding her own against industry vets that populate the movie. (You won’t be able to get enough of her. Check out her hilarious Twitter feed for more – vetted by Vulture!) You’ll love to hate her evil boss Bob Devore, played by beloved comedian Ron Lynch. (It’s absolutely hilarious that Ron is cast as a monster, as he’s truly one of the kindest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. More on that below.) And the industry vets I mentioned? None other than Fred Armisen (as Fredo, Bob’s beleaguered lighting assistant) and Mary Lynn Rajskub (as comedy dynamo Gina). Both are always a delight and it’s a thrill to see them pop up here. I wish there was more information about the director. Someone called in some serious favors, and it’s paid off in spades.
Also topnotch is Violet’s love interest, Jimmy Rhodes (Will Weldon), and Vi’s best friend, Belinda (the gorgeous Jenny Zigrino). The chemistry of these three makes for a believable experience in the midst of a fantastical plot device. Pay attention to the “bit players” as well – the film is full of talented local comedians that we’ll surely continue to hear more from in the future. (And kudos to casting director Jessica Sherman, who took the opportunity to include some much-needed diverse casting choices. Very well done.)
If you’re looking for a sweet love story, Too Late has you covered. If you need to laugh, you can find that here too! Yep, it’s also a horror film, but one low on gore and scares. And that’s just perfect for what the aim is here, because sometimes the real terror is the thing we do to ourselves in pursuit of our goals. You might even recognize yourself!
Too Late has it all, accomplishing riding the rare fine line between comedy, rom com, and horror without losing focus or steam. I can’t stop raving about it, and I think you should see it! A background in comedy helps, but you don’t need it laugh along with this horror show.
Nuggets – more film thoughts:
* As mentioned, I had the honor of meeting Ron Lynch back in my standup days. I’d connected with him when he did a show in Portland and ran into him later in L.A. When I told him I was in town to do a few sets he immediately booked me on his show later that night! (Ironically, Ron hosts a long-running showcase called Tomorrow with Ron Lynch, which he’s been producing for 15 years.) He could not have been more gracious, generous, or supportive. He’s an icon on the local L.A. scene and a true treasure. It’s hard to imagine a cruel word coming from him, so you know he’s a great actor!
* Same with the lovely Jenny Zigrino, who I had the pleasure of meeting during Portland’s (much-missed) Bridgetown Comedy Festival. She’s bubbly, vivacious, and freaking hilarious. When I expressed my awe that she was going to be in Bad Santa 2, she gave me a hug and said, “Let’s take a photo because I’m gonna be famous!” She also later performed on my showcase, Keep It Like a Secret, and was a total delight.
* I didn’t want to infuse too much of my bias into this, but I’ve got to say this film so perfectly captures some of the ups and downs of being a part of a local comedy scene. I think I still have PTSD from booking shows and had a good laugh at the scene when Violet is pestered by a comedian who wants stage time. Seeing Violet’s drive and passion made me miss what I used to do – watching her get ground down by a series of thoughtless men made me glad I’ve stayed gone. Bonus – my soul is still my own!