Confession time. This critic loathed “The Greasy Strangler” before he loved it.
Director Jim Hosking’s 2016 oddity threw every awkward moment possible at audiences. You either hit “stop” on your streaming device or let the insanity wash over you.
That’s assuming your gag reflex didn’t take over.
Hosking’s follow-up, “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn,” follows a similar template.
- Wackier than wacky characters sporting the most unflattering hairstyles possible
- A soundtrack better suited for a ’70s grindhouse flick
- Laughs where you least expect them
That “Greasy” magic starts and stalls, though, until it’s clear there’s no fairy dust left in the director’s fanny pack.
Aubrey Plaza stars as Lulu, a donut shop drone who loses her job and husband in the film’s manic opening. The latter is by choice, as she hits the road in search of an old flame.
That’s Craig Robinson, an imposing gent with an unforgettable lounge act. It’s “An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn; For One Magical Night Only.”
Yes, his name is Beverly. It’s funny ‘cuz it’s … different?
Lulu’s quest gets an unlikely ally in Jemaine Clement. He plays Colin, a would-be thug who couldn’t, wouldn’t harm a fly. Naturally, he falls for Lulu, who only has eyes for her grunting ex-beau.
Robinson’s dialogue consists of grunts and growls, and nothing more. It’s actually the movie’s best running gag. Consider that a bright red flag.
Once again Hosking loads the screen with characters so odd they’d be chased out of a “Napoleon Dynamite” sequel. The best may be Adjy (Sam Dissanayake), an Indian shopkeep out to retrieve some stolen money.
Co-star Emile Hirsch is on his own as Lulu’s husband. The actor, either not clued into his peers’ low-key style or going rogue, throws himself into every gesture. You’ll either wish his co-stars followed his lead or curse his mannered sthick.
There is no middle ground.
It’s just one reason “Evening” feels like warmed over elements from the director’s unhinged debut.
FAST FACT: Director Jim Hosking claim to fame before “The Greasy Strangler” was “Doctor,” a short about a man who grows a mustache on his bum.
“Evening” finds a rhythm of sorts early on, introducing the nutty characters in broad, buffoonish strokes. Maintaining that whimsy remains out of reach.
The sight of “Greasy Strangler” alum Sky Elobar helps. He’s what Robert De Niro is to Martin Scorsese, the shock auteur’s muse. Elobar doesn’t grace enough scenes to leave a mark, alas.[click_to_tweet tweet=”‘An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn’ looks like the spiritual sequel to ‘The Greasy Strangler,’ but it lacks that movie’s insanity quotient.” quote=”Once again Hosking loads the screen with characters so odd they’d be chased out of a ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ sequel.”]
The film’s comic energy just never materializes, in part because it’s only slightly deranged in tone. What we get instead are uncomfortable asides meant to make us laugh, like uncontrollable coughs and nebbishy confessions.
Hosking assembled a near perfect cast for his brand of storytelling. Plaza could play a sexy, aloof dreamer in her REM sleep. You keep waiing for something in her character to pay dividends, a moment of pure whimsy or a rant for the ages.
It never happens.
— Beverly Luff Linn (@BeverlyLuffLinn) September 19, 2018
Robinson makes the most of his grunting character, a feat which deserves its own special Oscar recognition.
“Beverly Luff Linn’s” final act delivers the “evening” we’ve all been waiting for. The reveal is so absurdly anti climactic we can’t help but feel cheated. And bored.
Sincerity doesn’t seem to suit Hosking. Nor does this disappointing comedy.
HiT or Miss: “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn” sports deranted characters, absurd dialogue and a fraction of the unhinged glee the director’s previous film, “The Greasy Strangler,” uncorked.