An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn
Ever wondered at what point weird becomes too weird? Well, you may find out if and when you decide to watch Jim Hosking's An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn. Everyone has their personal limit of course, but Hosking seemed to have a lot of fun pushing the boundaries, in an effort to see how far he could take the weirdness before people started to cave. It's a film unlike any other I've seen and one which I find hard to crack, even after sitting through a full 108 minutes of it, but that's exactly what makes this one so special and worthy of little extra praise.
After directing several shorts, Hosking had his big break when he earned a spot in the ABCs of Death 2 anthology (G is for Grandad). That led to his first feature film project, The Greasy Strangler, which garnered a fair amount cult buzz. While I was aware of the film at the time, I never got around to watching it and as so often happens, totally forgot about it after a while. From what I've heard though, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is comparable to The Greasy Strangler, the biggest difference being that the cast of Hosking's latest consists of more familiar faces.
Comedy cinema is in a bit of a slump these days. It has become a secondary genre, overshadowed mostly by drama or horror elements. While I don't mind a good horror comedy or dramady, sometimes I prefer the dedication of a film that cares about little else than drawing laughs from its audience. An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn may not be the most obvious comedy out there, but at least it's intentions are clear. Defining Hosking's particular brand of comedy is tricky, but it falls somewhere in between Wes Anderson, The Farrelly Brothers and David Lynch. If your brain is struggling to make sense of that, don't feel bad, mine is still trying to work it out.
The plot is little more than excuse to bring together a varied cast of characters. A bunch of different storylines converge in a small town hotel, where mysterious artist Beverly Luff Linn will host a once in a lifetime event. From revisiting old loves to running off with random hitmen, from platonic male relationships to theft and deceit. It's all there but none of it really matters, except maybe the build-up to the titular event of the film. If you're hoping to see some solid storytelling though, it's probably better to just skip this one altogether.
If I referenced Wes Anderson before, it's probably because of the way this film is styled. Hosking isn't as meticulous as Anderson, but his films seem to take place in a very similar setting, drenched in small-town cheap yet elevated by a quirky sense of strange and awkward. Nothing looks the way it looks by accident, the camera work is very deliberate and the lighting is often used to good effect. It's obvious Hosking didn't have the biggest budget to work with, as some of it looks a bit too lo-fi, but the core vision shines through at all times.
The music deserves even more praise. It's rare to find a soundtrack that is so diverse, demanding, leading yet utterly puzzling. It determines the rhythm of the scenes and it is detrimental to the overall mood and atmosphere, though it can be all over the place and it doesn't always make a whole lot of sense. Sometimes it's spooky, sometimes it sounds alien, the next scene it can be quirky and upbeat. Synths and ambient waves are mixed with 80s pop tracks and form a generally incomprehensible mix of sounds that make for a wacky experience. Other directors should take notice.
The cast is a combination of several oddball comedy actors (Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clement, Craig Robinson) - obvious picks - and a couple of more surprising castings (Emile Hirsch, Matt Berry). The nice thing is that all these choices seem to pan out. People like Plaza and Clement can do a film like this eyes closed, but the contrast with the less likely candidates is delightful. The entire cast is hysterical, though their largely overstated, almost robotic performances are sure to put some people off. I loved it, but it's definitely an acquired taste.
An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is sure to divide the room. At its core it's a pretty straightforward comedy, but one that revels in its ability to embrace the weirdness and discomfort of a certain moment and stretch it to its extreme. These scenes are actually somewhat reminiscent of David Lynch's style of film making. There is no sensible reason why Hosking should combine these two polar opposites, but the fact of the matter is that it just works really, really well. The only issue I had is that I felt it could've just been a smidge shorter. Because the styling is so distinct and overwhelming, it does get just a little repetitive after a while.
This is one of those films that is best experienced. You could read a million reviews and still not know what to expect. There's also no telling whether you'll end up liking it, but I'm pretty confident that this will be a unique experience, one you're sure to remember for a while afterwards. Jim Hosking is a director that could go far if he manages to keep this up, I'm already looking forward to catching up with his older work and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that his new project gets the funding it needs. If you're in for a strange evening, this is the film for you.