Title: Too Late
Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: Homer: "It's too late for me, Marge! Sell the jeans and live like a queen!"
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three Barbara Stanwycks out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Jaded P.I.s and the scantily clad ladies who tolerate them.
Tagline: "A movie about a missing woman...and a lost man."
Better Tagline: "Who's the old private dick who's a disappointment to all the chicks?"
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Too Late tells the (non-chronological) story of Mel Sampson (John Hawkes), a burnt out (what else?) private eye trying to piece together a mystery involving a young woman from his distant past named Dorothy (Crystal Reed), who appears to have run afoul of a crime boss named Gordy (Robert Forster). Assisted and obstructed by an assortment of oddball characters, Sampson must piece together Dorothy's murky past.
"Critical" Analysis: If nothing else, Dennis Hauck's inaugural effort is a wonderful experiment. Too Late isn't the first non-linear narrative film by a long shot, but Hauck upped the ante on his antecedents by shooting it in five 20-minute segments, each done in a single take with no cutaways or hidden edits. The reels are also played in non-sequential order, which makes the mystery difficult for the audience to solve as well.
The result is fairly immersive, if stylized to a fault (we'll get to that). Probably the most facile comparison to make is to Tarantino, because every vaguely off-kilter crime movie made in the last 20 years has to somehow invoke the great QT. Personally, I got more of a David Lynch vibe, especially in the opening scene. There's a definite sense of things being somehow "off," which is only hammered home in the first reel's abruptly startling ending.
Points also for including venerable character actors like Forster (which won't help the Tarantino comparisons any), Hawkes and Joanna Cassidy, who help ground the occasionally too on-the-nose dialogue. Although Hawkes, as good as he is, is almost too long in the tooth for this role. He's 56 years old; far from movie retirement age (and if Hollywood history is any indication, he still has another 20 years of romantic leading man roles opposite barely legal co-stars), which to an extent helps emphasize Sampson's dissolution.
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Too Late is clearly a testimony to Hauck's love of film noir, which might explain some of the film's unfortunate misogyny. Noir is one of the most restrictive when it comes to cinematic gender roles, and the female characters here aren't dissimilar to the dames of yore. Jilly (Dichen Lachman), Sampson's closest thing to a friend, at least becomes an entrepreneur of sorts. Then again, 99 percent of her onscreen wardrobe consists of panties and a bra, while Vail Bloom, who plays Gordy's disaffected trophy wife Janet, spends much of her segment stark naked from the waist down. You could argue this is indicative of her weakening mental state and not merely exploitative, and I wish you luck with that.
There also must be something written into every permit filed for an independent movie shooting in Los Angeles that requires the film spend a designated amount of time up its own ass about the fact. From drug dealer duo Matthew and Jesse (Rider Strong and Dash Mihok), the closest the movie comes to comic relief, self-referentially discussing Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead to quirky touches like Jilly's amateur boxing/drive-in theater endeavor, Too Late is very keenly aware of its L.A.-ness.