I will admit that I haven’t seen Jim Hosking’s previous Sundance venture The Greasy Strangler—a grotesque exercise in trying to annoy as many people as possible. After speaking with others at my screening who had seen The Greasy Strangler, it was evident that no one particularly liked it. So why were we here, seated for his sophomore feature? Morbid curiosity perhaps?
Credit should be given where it’s due, there are few directors with as a vision as singular as Hosking, a style that’s about as anti-Hollywood as it can get. Will he be able to retain his signature idiosyncratic style with top-tier comedic actors like Aubrey Plaza, Craig Robinson, and Jemaine Clement on board? To answer that question: yes he can, for better or for worse. Fans of The Greasy Strangler will revel in this offbeat trip. To everyone else, I recommend you don’t waste your time.
Lulu (Aubrey Plaza, playing an Aubrey Plaza-type character with an eccentric taste in fashion) is in an unhappy marriage with diner owner Shane Danger (Emile Hirsch, possibly trying to pull a panto Jack Black impression). When she sees an advertisement on TV for “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn for One Magical Night Only,” she feels compelled to go to the event. It turns out Beverly (Craig Robinson, communicating only through grunts) was Lulu’s former beau, enraging her husband and Beverly’s platonic partner Rodney (Matt Berry). Through a convenient set of circumstances involving stolen money and Lulu’s brother, a hitman-esque guy named Colin (Jemaine Clement), Lulu is able to scrape the money needed to stay at the hotel Beverly is currently taking residence in. This all sounds more exciting than it actually is, and for all the buildup, the titular evening, which is teased throughout as a magical life-altering event, is a miserable letdown. The joke’s on us.
The film’s deadpan shtick is amusing at first—it’s not often you see actors reciting lines dreadfully on purpose, or at least, I hope it was—but it quickly grows extremely tiresome. For a film that tries its very hardest to be weird, it’s quite monotonous. Jokes are repeatedly called back, making everything exhaustingly repetitive (one gag involves Lulu’s brother returning to the diner every morning to ask “WHERE IS MY FUCKING MONEY!?”—with a few extra fuckings added because swearing a lot is funny, I guess?) If I had a watch, I imagine I would’ve been checking it every 30 seconds, impatiently waiting for the whole ordeal to be over. The only time I felt something other than confusion or boredom was whenever my Scottish hometown of Aberdeen was mentioned—eventually becoming an important plot point—a cinematic rarity.
An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn may not exist for the disgusting factor in the way that The Greasy Strangler does, but it continually confounds. It’s fun to see these actors fully commit themselves to their roles—Jemaine Clement, in particular, is strange and endearing as the goofy hitman—but Beverly Luff Linn is a waste of these actors’ talents.
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