UK Release Date: 23rd October 2018
Runtime: 108 minutes
Director: Jim Hosking
Writer: Jim Hosking, David Wike
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clement, Craig Robinson, Matt Berry, Emile Hirsch, Maria Bamford, Sky Elobar, Sam Dissanayake
Synopsis: A woman made redundant by her husband leaves him and joins forces with a mysterious, socially awkward handyman to track down her former lover at a strange and unusual show in a hotel.
An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn is an odd little movie, which isn’t saying much if you know its director Jim Hosking and his previous work The Greasy Strangler. That’s a movie in which an elderly serial killer covers himself in grease and then murders people, while he’s also part of a love triangle involving his own son. An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn is more, shall we say, grounded than his previous work, yet it still retains much of the off-kilter and non-sequitur humour of his previous work.
Aubrey Plaza stars as Lulu Danger, who is fired from her job by her own husband Shane (Emile Hirsch). In response, she decides to find her former lover, who performs under the stage name Beverly Luff Lin (Craig Robinson). She is helped in her journey by the mysterious and socially inept handyman Colin Keith Threadener (Jemaine Clement).
The film is almost conventional on paper, but is executed in the bizarre fashion expected from Hosking. There is a sense that this is Hosking trying to make something more thematically deep than Greasy Strangler, which was a full-blooded gross-out black comedy. There’s an attempt here to marry his anarchic silliness with a more grounded story, carried by a thematic underpinning of love, obsession and broken relationships. Unfortunately, it falls really flat. There’s an attempt here to tackle these themes, but it never really makes a solid point and is too abstractly weird to ever cement what it’s trying to say – it’s like squinting to find the image in a magic eye painting.
All of the characters feel love in different ways, both healthy and unhealthy. Lulu loves Beverly through rose-tinted glasses, Colin loves Lulu through idyllic love at first sight, Shane loves Lulu as a pure possession, Matt Berry‘s sidekick character loves Beverly as a purely platonic comrade. It’s less of a love triangle story and more of a love ball of yarn that’s been tangled and twisted by a rambunctious kitten.
The film almost desperately needs to get weird and abstract to more easily express itself. Craig Robinson only speaks in grunts and groans for 90% of the movie, which goes nowhere, and there’s a subplot with Shane and his cronies – including Greasy Strangler alum Sky Elobar – that again goes nowhere of note. By trying to retain a semblance of reality, it just feels mismatched with the comedy. Lulu’s real heartache and obsession over Beverly is undercut by Sam Dissanayake screaming about his money box or Clement yelling about being trapped under the ice. It just doesn’t gel.
Hosking is evidently trying to evolve and grow as a filmmaker, which I think is worthy of acknowledgement even if the film doesn’t land on its feet. It would be unfair to compare him to Quentin Tarantino, but I hope this is a step towards maturity for Hosking, compared to Tarantino who, as much as I love his movies, has never matched the maturity of Jackie Brown and has retained an almost juvenile sensibility. An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn is juvenile, don’t get me wrong, but there is an attempt at something more nuanced here that I’d like to see Hosking develop in future films.
I’ll also commend the performances he gets from his actors. The cast of this movie is a phenomenal collection of comic talent and everyone is giving it their all, adapting to the offbeat style Hosking has cemented admirably. It’s a sterling cast that I just wish were in a better film.
Pop or Poop?
An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn wasn’t for me, but there’s potential here for Jim Hosking. Even though I felt underwhelmed by this movie, I can’t wait to see what he does next. I’d recommend giving The Greasy Strangler a try first and then try this to see if it gives you anything. Unfortunately, it didn’t for me.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.