An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn (2018)
A love triangle with too many sides.
An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is what you would get if you fed an AI algorithm 15,000 slightly different drafts of Napoleon Dynamite (2004) and commanded it to spit out an original screenplay. Shallowly obsessed with the grotesque and outré, more concerned with absurd non-sequiturs than actual constructed jokes, overly long, self-indulgent, and smug, the only thing the film holds in more contempt than its characters is its audience.
Luff Linn’s piss-thin plot orbits around bitter, deadpan waitress Lulu Danger (Aubrey Plaza, reverting to standard operating procedure in the face of facile direction), who works at a small town café with a couple of morons — Tyrone (Zach Cherry) and Carl (Sky Elobar) — and is trapped in a vicious, sparring marriage with her manager Shane (Emile Hirsch, one note and flailing). Stewing in her own juices after Shane fires her to cut costs, Lulu sees an ad on TV for ‘An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn for One Magical Night Only’ — some kind of weird live performance that seems to star a man from her past (played by the great Craig Robinson). Escaping the domestic drudgery of her home life with Shane, she’s determined to attend that ‘magical night’ and reconnect with Beverly, teaming up with would-be vigilante Colin Keith Threadener (Jemaine Clement) along the way. And then more things happen.
Not things of any consequence, mind you. Meaning is stupid, according to Beverly Luff Linn and its writer/ director Jim Hosking, The Greasy Strangler (2016), who co-wrote this tripe with David Wike, Champions (2006). Consistent characterization is stupid. Believable motivations are stupid. Dialogue is stupid — only deliberately stupid dialogue isn’t stupid. Everything sucks — the film is the cinematic equivalent of The Simpsons’ ‘cynical member of Generation X’ gag, a 108-minute sneer at … well, everything.
It’s so goddamn tiresome. What we have here is a film convinced of its own cleverness, when, in reality, it barely manages to brush the trailing underbelly of a half-assed satirical student newspaper in terms of quality of parody. It presents a gross, gaudy world populated by loathsome, dumb people trapped in morbid, depressing patterns of behavior — ‘John Kricfalusi by way of Tim & Eric’ seems to be the design goal, but the end result is ‘avowed Tom Green fan tanks at open mic night’ — just tedious yet enthusiastic ugliness thrown at the screen over and over and over again.
Everyone talks in an affected, stilted monotone. Why? Because it’s weird. Except for Beverly Luff Linn, who only communicates via foreboding grunts and growls. Why? Because it’s weird. He also wears a Scottish bonnet almost all the time. Why? Because … well, you know. Confronted with a narrative problem, a character interaction, or even just a lull, Hosking and Wike default to just dropping in the strangest, most offbeat reversal or response they can think of. Every time.
There’s a chance that sounds kind of amusing, but you need to banish that notion. Beverly Luff Linn is an absolute trudge of a film — indeed, it’d be a forced march even without its indulgent overlong running time. Scenes drag on and on as Lulu and Colin hole up in the hotel where Beverly is scheduled to play. The show keeps getting postponed, because … well, basically because a feature film needs to hit a certain length, and why go to all the trouble of actual plot mechanics when you can just do this? Meanwhile the virginal Colin pines for Lulu, which might bring some emotional engagement to the proceedings if either of them even remotely resembled real people with actual inner lives.
No, it’s all surface level stuff here, and that is the key problem. Everything that occurs is superficial in every respect. There is no unifying thesis. Whatever unique take Hosking has on the world — if indeed he has one — remains a mystery to us, because the vision presented on screen is just a mishmash of tropes and signifiers lifted from other, better filmmakers. Beverly Luff Linn wants to be mistaken for outsider art — the kind of film that can only come from a singularly out of whack and preternaturally talented auteur. But An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn fails to capture any of that Harmony Korine or David Lynch cultural juice, even though it tries so hard to emulate it. It’s a fake, a fugazi, a cynical attempt to mimic the tropes of the weird with none of the insight, vision, or — most damningly — desperate desire to communicate that marks the best underground films.
Outsider movies that transcend the fringes of film culture manage to do so because they’re trying to explain ideas and viewpoints that conventional cinematic language simply fails to encompass. With An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, Jim Hosking is literally trying to steal that kind of underground cache, but authenticity will out. Don’t be drawn in by the film’s superficial strangeness; this is the cinematic equivalent of a hipster dive bar — all atmosphere, no substance, and no shame.
1 / 5 – Don’t Waste Your Time
Reviewed by Travis Johnson