×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn’

Big comedy stars enlisted in oddball Jim Hosking's follow-up to "The Greasy Strangler" — but audiences must have a high tolerance for kooks.

Director:
Jim Hosking
With:
Aubrey Plaza, Emile Hirsch, Jemaine Clement, Matt Berry, Craig Robinson.

1 hour 48 minutes

There’s a lie in the title of Jim Hosking’s “An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn.” To see what mysterious magic Craig Robinson’s non-verbal Beverly holds over his sold-out crowds, unhappy wife Lulu Danger (Aubrey Plaza) must spend several evenings at this strange small-town hotel dodging her husband Shane (Emile Hirsch) and the advances of a naïve gunman, Colin (Jemaine Clement), who’s helped her run off with her brother Adjay’s (Sam Dissanayake) cash. She’s miserable, but whether audiences will enjoy the wait depends on their appreciation for Hosking’s synthetic style where all the clothes are bad, all the characters are dingbats, and every scene is cluttered with snort-worthy absurdism.

Since his 2016 debut “The Greasy Strangler,” Hosking has specialized in terrariums of kooks. His brain works methodically. He’s no sloppy absurdist throwing whatever at the screen to see what sticks. Instead, Hosking gives rhythm to the madness. In “Greasy Strangler,” the back-beat was a repeated sequence where the Crisco-covered killer Big Ronnie strips nude and walks through a car wash. There’s a glimpse of a wild-haired man who could be Big Ronnie in the back of the coffee shop where Lulu makes cappuccinos until her boss and spouse Shane fires her in favor of dimwits Carl (Sky Elobar) and Tyrone (Zach Cherry). But in a Hosking film, every character — even the extras — is at once bizarrely unique and part of a clan.

A Hosking character doesn’t just walk into a room. They move like stop-motion figures covered in human skin. Nothing is natural. The film’s been edited to make audiences off-balance. Either characters appear as soon as they’ve been summoned, or the camera holds as a conversation gets interrupted by a coughing fit — twice. And the eclectic musical backdrop veers from choral hymns to cold synths to retro ballads to thudding drums, each song fitting the exact scene they’re in without worrying if it matches the rest.

Other tics include dialogue barked with the blunt gravity of NASA engineers averting disaster, and actors gamely making themselves as repellent as possible. If there’s a nose that can be reddened or a bare chest that could bristle with hairs, it’s on display. Hirsch’s overbearing husband hunches his shoulders to look even shorter than 5-foot-7 and juts out his chin like a cartoon of Dick Tracy. Clement, no stranger to moth-eaten wigs, might make a living as a wandering brute, but when he tells Lulu he’s a virgin, it’s believable.

The exception is Plaza’s Lulu, who looks like an ’80s skate rink princess in her soft curls and mutton-chop sweaters. She’s the first Hosking character treated with wall-to-wall empathy, and when she gazes at Robinson’s barrel-chested mute in his Peter Pan collar, plaid Scottish breeches and pom-pom-topped Balmoral bonnet, Plaza is somehow channeling real love. From her heartsick wife, drops of recognizable human emotion trickle down to splash other characters, especially Clement’s bumbling not-so-bad guy who can’t catch a break.

Hosking has a vision, and more often that not, it works. Strip away the madness and the script, co-written with David Wike, is a standard riff on oddballs-on-the-run flicks like “True Romance.” Except “Beverly Luff Linn” still doesn’t function like a film that believes in arcs. It takes the shape of a tightrope stunt. The thrill isn’t whether characters will change, it’s whether the actors will be able to sustain the humor. Mostly, they do, though the energy slumps just before the climax. If Hosking isn’t your tempo, you’re probably in the majority. But those who delight in championing the next cult film leader will nod along with Clement when he grins, “Although I don’t know what what’s going on here, I’m having a great time.”

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (NEXT), Jan. 26, 2018. Running time: 108 MIN.

Production: A Film4, BFI presentation of a Park Pictures, Rook Films, Wigwam Films production, in association with GPS Film Partners. (International sales: UTA, Los Angeles/Protagonist Pictures, London.) Producers: Sam Bisbee, Theodora Dunlap, Oliver Roskill, Emily Leo, Lucan Toh. Andrew Starke. Executive producers: Lance Acord, Daniel Battsek, Jackie Kelman Bisbee, Mary Burke, Robert Farrior, Richard Garber, David Gordon Green, Jim Hosking, Sam Lavender, Gregory P. Shockro, David Wike.

Crew: Director: Jim Hosking. Screenwriters: Hosking, David Wike. Camera (color): Nanu Segal. Editors: Mark Burnett, Nick Emerson. Music: Andrew Hung.

With: Aubrey Plaza, Emile Hirsch, Jemaine Clement, Matt Berry, Craig Robinson.

More Film

  • Nicolas Cage Hainan International Film Festival

    China's Hainan Film Festival Launches Golden Coconut Competition

    The deep-pocketed, government-run Hainan Island International Film Festival has launched a new competition section for its second iteration, set to take place from December 1-8. This year, ten ‘Golden Coconut Awards’ will be given out across three categories of films: feature-length, feature documentaries, and fictional shorts. Prizes will be presented for best picture, best director, [...]

  • Panda

    France's Troisième Œil Teams With China's CICC on Richard Dale's 'Panda Kingdom' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Troisième Œil Productions is teaming with Chinese partners to make its first international co-production with the premium documentary “Panda Kingdom,” and has brought BAFTA-winning director Richard Dale on board to helm it. The outfits China Aviation Pictures and CICC are co-producing the documentary with Troisième Œil Productions. The docu feature will explore the captive breeding [...]

  • Andhadhun receives AACTA nomination

    Indian and Chinese Titles Dominate AACTA Asian Award Nominations

    Three Indian and three mainland Chinese films are among the nine feature movies shortlisted for the Best Asian Film Award by the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts. The Indian selections are box office hit “Andhadhun,” “Super Deluxe, and “Gully Boy,” which premiered in February at the Berlin festival. The Chinese trio includes “Shadow,” [...]

  • Fernando Meirelles The Two Popes

    Film News Roundup: 'The Two Popes' Wins Audience Award at Miami Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, “The Two Popes” wins an audience award, “A Night with Janis Joplin” and “Fittest in Dubai” get releases, Artists First reorganizes, SAG-AFTRA expands its headquarters and Film Fest 919 announces its winners. AUDIENCE AWARD Fernando Meirelles’ “The Two Popes” has won the audience award at the Miami Gems Film Festival. [...]

  • Scotty Bowers

    Scotty Bowers, Old Hollywood's Sexual Matchmaker, Dies at 96

    Scotty Bowers, a “sexual matchmaker” for dozens of stars during the Golden Age of Hollywood who wrote about his colorful — and sometimes unbelivable — life in his memoir “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars,” died at his Laurel Canyon home on Sunday. He was 96. The [...]

  • AMC theater

    AMC Entertainment Introducing On-Demand Movie Service

    AMC Entertainment will introduce an online video store in the United States on Tuesday. Adam Aron, AMC’s president and chief executive, said that the AMC Theaters On Demand will offer about 2,000 films for sale or rent after their theatrical runs — much like Amazon or iTunes. Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, Sony and Paramount have [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content