Aubrey Plaza, Jermaine Clement, Craig Robinson, and Matt Berry star in a new film by Jim Hosking.
Not. Greasy. Enough.
For those whom such brevity does not suffice (such as the Screen Anarchy editors), I'll elaborate. An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn represents the sophomore effort of The Greasy Strangler helmer Jim Hosking. The relative success of that first film (a domestic total gross of $45,878, according to Box Office Mojo), seems to have attracted the attention of some honest-to-goodness professional actors.
But the mere presence of Aubrey Plaza, Jermaine Clement, Craig Robinson, and Matt Berry does not a successful comedy make. Not that they don't acquit themselves admirably, because they do.
It's just... this is a Jim Hosking film -- can I say that after only one other film? And for the most part these capable thespians have been saddled with what I like to refer to as the "straight roles," at least when compared to the bit players. The only "respectable" actor to fully transform into a Jim Hosking character is Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Acting Ensemble co-winner Emile Hirsch, who embodies cappuccino entrepreneur Shane Danger with mucho gusto. That kid's going places.
If The Greasy Strangler was, at its core, a simple father/son story, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is some kind of demented love triangle, one made by a person who has no idea how many sides a triangle has. It stars Aubrey Plaza as Lulu Danger, a woman stuck in the doldrums of an unhappy marriage. She convinces her dastardly unintelligent husband, who recently fired her from the sketchy restaurant he manages, to rob her vegan brother, and then runs off with the guy her brother hires to get the money back, the oddly-wigged Jermaine Clement.
This all so she can attend a magical evening put on by a mysterious ex-lover, for one night only. The road to said evening is paved with all sorts of weirdos being weird for weirdness sake, and features some of the most awkward interactions ever captured on film. Throw in a bevy of bizarre non-sequiturs and you're beginning to get the picture. Hearts are broken, secrets are revealed, and virginities are lost -- not necessarily in that order.
Whereas The Greasy Strangler was a grotesque tour de force of absurdist humor, its follow-up skews more Jared Hess than John Waters, more Todd Solondz than Tim & Eric. And for some -- maybe that's a good thing? But strip away the intentionally stilted performances and cringe comedy trappings, and all we're left with is the skeleton of a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, one that's too weird for mainstream audiences and not weird enough for those weaned on prosthetic genitals and hootie tootie disco cuties.
Hosking has gone on record as saying he couldn't imagine himself topping the boundary pushing humor of The Greasy Strangler, so he settled on a different approach. He took what he considered an even bigger risk and built his new film on a foundation of emotions. Of course, it remains to be seen whether audiences will recognize those emotions as human, and whether said emotions will transcend the film's unique comedy stylings.
On a personal note, I wanted to like this film so much. Some might say a little too much. I came out of film criticism retirement just so I could see it a few weeks early. So it pains me to have to write this. An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn just didn't do it for me. It was not a magical event, as purported.
Alright, the actual Evening that takes place during the climax of the movie -- that was pretty magical. As was the inspired round of fisticuffs that ensued. And I was consistently intrigued by the mystery behind Craig Robinson's Beverly and his handler/best friend/man-servant, Rodney Von Donkensteiger, played by Matt Berry. Also, a pretty kick-ass dance scene closes out the film. So it's not a total write-off.
Maybe the problem is An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn wasn't the type of film I could torture my friends with, a la its predecessor. I suppose only time will tell. I'd be interested in seeing where it sits in the Jim Hosking canon four or five films down the road (and yes, I wrote that sentence with a serious face). So you can still consider me a fan.