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Review: Too Late – “Proves itself to be a solid indie”

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Ron Lynch and Alyssa Limperis in Too Late

The stand-up comedy world has long been considered a boy’s club.  Of course, there have been notable exceptions, from Carol Burnett and Phyllis Diller to Ali Wong and Amy Schumer, but comedy clubs are often full of men, and it’s no secret that behind the scenes, and even on stage, there is a culture that is not always overly welcoming to funny women.  In fact, in the new HBO Max series Hacks (with the brilliant Jean Smart – can’t recommend this show enough), there’s a great episode that speaks directly to this.  So too does the new comedy-horror Too Late, where the overt sexism of the comedy world is examined in a satirical way.

Violet (Alyssa Limperis) is a booker for a small late-night show, the Death of Comedy, that takes place in a coffee shop in Los Angeles.  But what really pays the bills is her job as an assistant to comedic heavyweight Bob Devore (Ron Lynch) who hosts a late-night variety show called Too Late.  Violet puts up with Bob’s horrible treatment of her, hoping to catch a break into the comedy scene.  However, Bob’s not just a metaphorical monster, but a literal one.

As Violet discovers new comics for her show, she comes across more than a few bad apples, like Dax (Billy Breed) a comedian from Boston who harasses Violet to get a spot on Too Late and Chase (Brooks Wheelan) who has come into the big time but has a reputation for his treatment of women.  For men like these, Violet takes her assistant duties to the next level, providing Bob with a way of satiating his ‘monstrous’ appetite.  But when she meets an up-and-coming comic, and seemingly nice guy, Jimmy Rhodes (Will Weldon), Violet finds herself falling fast, and with loyalties tested she fears Jimmy may end up meeting an untimely end.

Too Late is the debut feature from director D.W. Thomas who works from a script by her husband, Tom Becker.  Both have extensive editorial backgrounds (and edit here also) which show in the film’s tight 80 minute run time.  There is not a second wasted, which keeps the pace brisk and decisive.  The film becomes a short and sweet take on the dog-eat-dog world (or person eats person in this case) of show business and comedy in particular.  Using a literal monster gives the filmmakers more leeway to express the horrors of Violet’s experience, though sadly it stays realistic in that aspect of its portrayal.

Alyssa Limperis puts forth a grounded performance as Violet despite everything going on around her and Ron Lynch is menacing enough as the cleverly named Bob Devore though his monstrous side is never scary enough to be a true threat.  Jenny Zigrino is delightful as Violet’s friend and roommate Belinda, an engaging presence whenever she is on screen.  A cameo by Mary Lynn Rajskub (24, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) as a stand up comic and a small role by Fred Armisen (SNL, Portlandia) take top billing here as recognizable faces but their screen time, while effective, is minimal.

Certainly, Too Late is more comedy than horror and those looking for actual scares will be sorely disappointed.  The film saves any gore for its final moments and even then it’s not realistic enough to be truly shocking.  It leans much more heavily on the comedic side, but there are laughs to be had from Becker’s often clever script.  For a first feature on a micro-budget Too Late proves itself to be a solid indie which should lend its filmmakers enough clout for a follow up that is hopefully just as creative.

Too Late is available in select theatres and digital platforms June 25th.

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