The Greasy Strangler director Jim Hosking’s second feature, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, tries to make a virtue out of extreme silliness and disjointed, oh-so-random plot points, but the end result is a desperately tiresome viewing experience.
Do you like to, y’know, get silly? Like, putting on fright wigs and suddenly shouting non-sequiturs silly? It’s a guilty pleasure that most of us have probably succumbed to at one point or another, but An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn proves beyond doubt that an entire script dedicated to the art form is likely to wear thin. Everything that happens across the film’s almost-two hours is of so little consequence that paying full attention to its goings-on would require the patience of a saintly fakir determined to mortify both flesh and mind.
Its story concerns the misadventures of Lulu Danger (Aubrey Plaza), whose loveless marriage to Shane Danger (Emile Hirsch) leads her to take part in a small-scale heist with the aid of would-be tough guy Colin (Jemaine Clement). The pair take to the road, but little does Colin know that Lulu’s real plan is to try to reunite with her former lover, Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson): visiting town for a one-off performance whose nature remains utterly mysterious. The intention is that the viewer will be teased along by a burning curiosity to know what this undisclosed evening with Luff Linn will entail, but the tone of carefully selected randomness is so well established in the film’s opening act that any remaining suspense wilts into the ether by the time its magical evening takes place.
At every moment, the film seems designed to be maximally annoying. Not as annoying as a bad night at the online casino, but close enough. A recurring gag is that characters sometimes cough for extended periods of time instead of taking part in dialogue. There are a lot of sequences which involve people just staring mutely at each other. Occasional moments of genuine humour come about thanks to the dependable comic chops of Jemaine Clement and Matt Berry (playing Luff Linn’s manager and ‘platonic lover’), but nothing can really make up for Hosking and co-writer David Wike’s apparent conviction that the unexpected is de facto funny.
As a surreal comedy, it bears some resemblance to the Matt Berry-led TV series Toast as well as the delightfully silly Mindhorn, scripted by Brit comedy veterans Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby. But whilst those productions derive their strength from a well-spring of ridiculous but carefully fleshed out characters, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is too interested in the aesthetics of perversity to bother with any of that business, choosing instead to slap the surrealism on in heavy dabs without having worked out a framework deserving of such oddity.
One of the film’s closest forebears might be the notoriously loathed Freddy Got Fingered and it’s possible that, like Tom Green’s exercise in prolonged audience infuriation, Hosking’s film will develop a cult following among those who delight in its contrarian approach. The more likely reality, however, is that it’s just plain bad – another reminder of how hard it is to transmit the hilarity of the writer’s room out onto the big screen.