The Austin Chronicle

Too Late

Not rated, 80 min. Directed by D.W. Thomas. Starring Alyssa Limperis, Ron Lynch, Will Weldon, Jack de Sena, Dinora Walcott, Billy Breed, Fred Armisen.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., June 25, 2021

If the last few years have taught us anything it's that, in the entertainment industry, something rises to the top and it's not always the cream. More recently, it's become clear that there are some pretty dreadful people in comedy. In both circumstances, it's not just the perpetrators that leave a trail of carnage, but the people who let them get away with it that create an abusive environment resistant to reform. Oddly, backstage horror-ish satire Too Late finds humor in the same toxic culture of enablement from which The Assistant forged a morality tale.

After all, Violet (Limperis) doesn't have clean hands when it comes to the appetites of her boss, L.A. standup legend Bob Devore (Lynch, delightfully hammy). And they're literal appetites. Bob eats people. Whole. He also steals their material, which is also deeply uncool, but you don't get to the top of the middle without cutting a few corners, right? And he's promised to take Violet all the way to ... well, his position as tastemaker of Too Late, the kind of club variety show that open mic night comics believe will be their big break. Life gets complex when she starts crushing pretty hard on a rising comic, Jimmy (Weldon), who sort of looks like what happens Steve Rogers if just did Pilates instead of signing up for the super soldier program, and then went off to work on his set. Of course, that makes him exactly the kind of snack that Bob likes, and so Vi has a new work/life balance: explain to Jimmy why she won't help with his big (and probably fatal) break while still keeping Bob happy and her romance alive.

Too Late walks a fine line, because it's a comedy in which the jokes aren't always supposed to be funny. That doesn't mean it won't generate a wry smile, but the whole point is that the comics are rarely hilarious. This is not late night at the Hollywood Improv, but the flopsweat of performances in front of three friends in a coffee shop, and Limperis definitely gets that her badly-paid Rehnquist is profoundly morally compromised (she's always the one laughing a little too hard at every show where she's supposed to be talent-spotting/picking up Bob's next snack).

Just as Too Late doesn't lean too hard into ha-ha humor, it's also light on actual horror. Bob's monstrous nature barely gets a flicker from Vi, and mostly a surprise yelp from his walking lunches, so his bloated, post-dinner, rotting-fat-suit-look is played for laughs. Weirdly, not leaning into either shrieks or giggles works for Too Late, as director D.W. Thomas crafts a delicate if silly satire, an in-joke that delivers more if you know the scene or the cameos (none better than Rajskub as the talent too good for any of these line-ups, and she knows it). Too Late may be an in-joke, but at least you'll get the laughs.

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