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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Last Late Night (review)

Kicking and Sceaming into Adulthood

Does a film about a “pot-smoking, coke-snorting, pill-popping, beer-chugging, porno-watching schmuck” sound like your kind of thing? Then The Last Late Night is for you. Written and directed by Scott Barlow, The Last Late Night won the Silver Award at 1999’s Flagstaff International Film Festival — and is coming soon to a festival near you — but I can’t say that I see the appeal in it myself.

Paul (Graham Galloway), the aforementioned schmuck, shows up unannounced in the middle of the night at the home of his friends Dave (Aaron Waiton) and Kate (Christine Steel), who also happens to be his ex. Kate and Dave, about to be married, have just moved into this expensive new rental, a first try at being grownups for these twentysomethings, and they — and in particular, Kate — don’t want loser-mooch Paul screwing things up. See, they’re about to host their first grownup party, a housewarming, to which Kate’s boss — from whom she has swung a shirt-and-tie job for Dave — has been invited. Kate wants to have a nice, respectable party, in which people have actual conversations and nobody pukes on the floor. Paul has all but moved in with his bong and his industrial-strength painkillers. Guess what happens next.
People like these three are real — I know that. People — especially people in their 20s — can be juvenile and stupid and unwilling to face the boring realities of adult life. Dave feels “like a fraud” in his new job; Paul is mostly motivated by his unwillingness to see the girl he still loves married to someone else; Kate can’t deny the party girl still in her despite her Martha Stewart pretensions. So: they’re realistic characters, but I don’t have to like them, and I don’t. I couldn’t find anything to hang any sympathy for them upon. None of these three seem to be able to stand one another, including Kate and Dave, who are planning on spending their lives together. Paul’s immature selfishness is not in the least bit interesting — I didn’t find him the charming rogue that Barlow or Galloway obviously intend him to be. Instead, I saw him as a disgusting pig (he needs to be reminded to shower and change his clothes) whose greatest life skill lies in playing Nintendo and slipping drugs to unsuspecting innocents.

The bulk of the film consists of annoying bickering among the three — mostly about drugs — and Paul’s attempts to sabotage the housewarming party. Now, Kate knows all about Paul’s complete and utter assholeness and his total disregard for her wishes, so why on Earth would she leave him alone just as her guests are about to arrive? It’s a flimsy excuse on Barlow-the-scriptwriter’s part that gets Kate and Dave out of the house, and that’s when I really started to actively dislike The Last Late Night, as opposed to just being indifferent. Kate’s guests turn out to be inexcusably clichéd, too: Dwayne (Jody Bradley), the dork programmer who’s also a Sasquatch hunter, and his clueless wife, Lillian (Mel Salvatore); and Kate and Dave’s boss, George (Bill Timoney), and his wife, Sophia (porn-star Ginger Lynn Allen), a horny ex-stripper who writes atrocious poetry, like the ode “Fuck Me Dead.” It all elicited a big sigh from me — this is intended to be hilarious, and it’s so completely unfunny that I wanted to scream in despair. The Last Late Night is like a MadTV sketch that goes on way, way, way too long.

I know why I didn’t enjoy The Last Late Night — I am not the audience it is intended for. Anyone right out of college and nostalgic for the good old days of endless drugging and slacking, and bitter at having at last to go to work for The Man, will likely find this outrageously funny and true. I, on the other hand, like to take the opposite approach to these harsh realities of twentysomething life: If you don’t want a job and a mortgage, then don’t take them — find your own thing and do it. Piss or get off the pot. Bitching about how awful and boring life is gets tedious really quickly.

The Last Late Night does have limited appeal — and that’s a lot more than can be said of many festival entries — but it’s an impressive production for its obviously tiny budget. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more thematically sophisticated work from Scott Barlow in the future.


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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