TOO LATE is a noir fable about the dark side of show biz. Deadpan and droll in its exploration of monsters and their enablers, it doesn’t so much expose anything new about what people are willing to do in order to succeed as present it with a puckish flair and a wicked sense of irony.
Our central character is doe-eyed Violet Fields (Alyssa Limperis), the much put-upon assistant to legendary comic Bob DeVore (Ron Lynch), as well as the booker for his weekly comedy showcase of rising talent, also monikered Too Late. On the side, she finds an outlet by producing her own comedy showcase in a tiny local coffee house, where the emcee is on mushrooms, and stand-up comics pester her to book them on Too Late. Violet has writing and performing dreams of her own, but she has put them on hold while tending to Bob and waiting for him to finally give her a big break. It’s a familiar story, but the twist is that when Violet tells people that Bob is a monster, she is not speaking metaphorically, and one of her less pleasant duties is finding a monthly meal for her employer in the form of a hapless human. Usually, it’s a starry-eyed stand-up who thinks the private audience with Bob will go a much different way.
Things come to a head for Violet when she falls for Jimmy Rhodes (Will Weldon), the boyish and struggling transplant from Ohio who impresses her with his comedic skills and his sophisticated banter. Bob also takes an interest in the young man that may be professional, or it may be culinary, and Violet must finally come to terms with the monster she services, and the toll it is taking on her. It’s an epiphany that will find her, along with Bob-hating, bacon-loving roommate, Belinda (Jenny Zigrino), doing dark deeds in the dead of night,
Bob’s particular species of monster, the supernatural one anyway, is a novel amalgam of werewolf with a dash of vampire tossed in. The plot does not concern itself with pinning it down, nor does it waste time in egregious exposition about the legend and lore. In fact, it goes with the refreshing choice of making even Bob not quite sure what he is, other than needing to feed at the dark of the moon. And preferring a comic with talent, unlike the first one we see him consume and whom Bob later describes as like eating air.
As for the quotidian kind of monster, Lynch is a delightfully smarmy blend of charm and bull-puckey. There is a glint in his eye as he harangues his hapless lighting guy (Fred Armisen) about which gel to use, and when he blithely forgets to introduce Violet to the network executive she’s been chasing for years. The condescension of his smile, and the cold dead eyes are a precis on opportunistic cynicism and hubris. That no one much cares when someone disappears after Bob has consumed them is a different sort of precis about the transience of modern life in any milieu, and the fatal self-absorption of the entertainment community.
TOO LATE doesn’t rely merely on its visual stylishness or its premise. The dialogue is crisp, with more than a passing shout-out to the hard-boiled mid-century noirs. As for Limperis, she carries the conceit of the plot and the film as a whole by creating an empathetic anti-heroine who is deeply flawed, but not intrinsically evil beyond the desire to make something of herself in a culture that tossed out its moral compass a long time ago. She’s the reason you care whether or not true love, and dreams, can survive in a town without pity.