Director: Jim Hosking
Screenplay: Jim Hosking, David Wike
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Emile Hirsch, Jemaine Clement, Matt Berry, Craig Robinson
Runtime: 108 Minutes
There’s a line spoken by Jermaine Clement’s hired gun Colin Keith Threadener as he consumes an entire plate of cheesy nachos that feels like a perfect judgement of the experience of watching a Jim Hosking film; “This is so indulgent. I’m going to need to do some exercises after this.”
Hosking’s directorial debut, The Greasy Strangler, was one of 2016s most unexpected cult pleasures. A unique, grotesque and downright bizarre little monster of a film populated with characters who were even stranger than the aesthetic and world it was based in, revelling in lengthy deadpan jokes and childish gross-out humour.
So, if his follow-up, the more densely populated and star-studded An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, isn’t quite as good as that, it’s only because topping a debut like Hosking and is mad little bad conjured up was always going to be a difficult thing to achieve.
Keeping on board much of the same creative force as that film – from composer Andrew Hung (Fuck Buttons) to some of the same cast members appearing in smaller roles – while it similar in execution with a broken and woozy state of mind that operates just outside of the fringes of logic and reality, it doubles down on the sincerity factor in a shift of genre to crime and noir. All be it as close as it can come to an actual genre definition.
It’s set up is brisk yet complicated, with Lulu Danger's (Aubrey Plaza) unsatisfying marriage to smarmy coffeeshop owner Shane Danger (Emile Hirsch) takes a turn for the worse following a robbery, and when a mysterious man from her past (Craig Robinson) comes to town to perform an event called "An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn; For One Magical Night Only" she pulls along Threadener for the ride.
What follows is more of the same that we’ve seen of Hosking before; protracted skits and offbeat characters existing within a contained universe of unnatural dialogue, strange fixations and emotional outbursts. But that stiltedness is being worked in a more fascinating way here come the final stretch, where not only is the “Evening” itself revealed, but its strangeness takes on a more revealing, expressionist form as an extension of human isolation and pain in a way that’s considerably more affecting than expected.
While some of the jokes in their continued appearances fail to land as well as intended, the film is inconsistently entertaining through its lengthy second act, holding off most of its bigger character content until the third act. But there are enough laughs to sustain the runtime, with hilarious performances from a cast who are playing into the material with as much archness and awkward artificiality as their supporting unprofessional cohorts – especially with a maddening turn from Emile Hirsch.
An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is not as memorable as it’s older and more mischievously depraved brother, opting for something softer and more accessible in approach. But even if it doesn’t leave the same impression, it maintains the same eccentric charm and unexpected heart that made it work even through the intentionally ugly aesthetic, 80s sounds and naff disco dancing.