Sundance London: An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn

An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn
An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn
Directed by Jim Hosking
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clement, Emile Hirsch, Maria Bamford, Craig Robinson and Matt Berry

by Joanna Orland

It’s no secret that I despise director Jim Hosking’s first feature The Greasy Strangler. A juvenile grossout I find to be irredeemable, it became a cult hit, and I unfortunately both expected it and understood why. In no way was I looking forward to a follow up from the insane mind behind The Greasy Strangler, but if I were to do an exercise where I wrote down all of the actors who could pull off the style of humour that Jim Hosking so distinctly emanates, it would literally be the entire cast of An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn. Well, everyone except Emile Hirsch, but I will get to that later.

Whereas The Greasy Strangler’s stunted awkward “acting” made the film unbearable and soulless, the same style of acting in An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn is its saving grace. While the commonalities between Hosking’s two films are strong, the excellent and appropriate lead cast of An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn elevates his material to where it should sit – in a genuine, enjoyable comedic realm. The cast also manages to humanize Hosking’s characters – something that wasn’t able to be done in The Greasy Strangler.

Hosking has a certain aesthetic as well as sense of humour, and it remains prevalent in his latest film. The supporting cast is filled with faces from The Greasy Strangler, but in smaller roles and with less screen time, their strange “naturalistic” delivery of dialogue is charming and humourous rather than merely stunted. But it is of course the lead actors, the ones with the famous names and faces, that make this film funny. No one as much so as Emile Hirsch – the only actor on this list that I wouldn’t have obviously put in this film. When I think of Emile Hirsch, I think of serious and upsetting drama (Lone Survivor, Killer Joe, Milk, Into the Wild) – never comedy. And while I would still be hesitant to call him a great comedic actor, his performance in An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn is the funniest thing in the film by far. One thing that can be said for this actor is that he COMMITS to his role! He embraces the style of director Hosking like no one else in the film, going completely over the top with the deadpan ridiculousness of the delivery. To be honest, the whole movie could have been about his character Shane Danger and I would have been perfectly content. I could not stop laughing every second he was on screen. I feel like I’ve just discovered Emile Hirsch, even though I’ve been a fan of his work for many years.

While Hirsch is the unexpected successful casting choice, everyone else is an obvious match for Hosking’s work, and they all deliver. Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) has much experience in the way of absurd and awkward comedy, and is as charming as ever. Matt Berry is also a very experienced absurdist and more than pulls his weight, knowing exactly how to deliver inane dialogue to leave an impact. Maria Bamford may only have a small role in the film, but as she always feels like she’s in a show of her own anyway, she fits in with this motley crew as much as she stands out. Craig Robinson as Beverly Luff Linn himself feels like the only person who could succeed in this role, without being thoroughly annoying. Beverly literally grunts and groans his way through nearly the entire film, and yes, it can be grating. Because Robinson has already built up a lot of good faith as a comedic actor, it’s easy to forgive the annoyance of muttering as you know it will pay off with such a seasoned veteran at the helm of the role.

In the main role of Lulu Danger is Aubrey Plaza. Now, she is a star in her own right and enough of a draw to bring in a crowd to An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn. She’s hilarious and lovable in every role, from Parks and Recreation to Ingrid Goes West. On paper, her style of alternative humour fits very well with Hosking’s. In reality, it sort of does, but her talent feels wasted on this material. Yes, she elevates the role of Lulu Danger to be the emotional anchor of the film, but this movie doesn’t need that. It is absurdist through and through and the emotional aspects are so peripheral that they serve no purpose. This is a stupid comedy, and for Plaza to bring such emotional heart to the film seems pointless. She is actually too good for this film.

An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn is certainly not for everyone. Hosking’s work is an acquired taste and requires a particular viewing environment to succeed. The film needs to be seen in the cinema, surrounded by other audience members basking in its absurdity. If watched at home, the flaws and stunted nature will be enhanced, and I imagine it will be very difficult to sit through all 108 minutes of a film that would have been perfect had it been a cool 80. Oh what a glorious film this could have been had I been left wanting more instead of counting down the minutes until Craig Robinson said actual words.

An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn is a hilarious yet tiresome absurdist adventure with the best cast I could possibly envision for it.


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