Guessing what The Greasy Strangler director Jim Hosking had in mind for a follow-up was always a bit of a poser. Whether he would slip into A Straight Story style deviation or lounge in that oily (dis)comfort zone he fashioned so well with TGS, was anybody’s guess. As it turns out, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn seems like a room tone re-hash in terms of kitsch/chic bravura and character types. At times it’s so similar to his bombastic debut, AEWBLL could be seen as a waddling appendage. The same kind of gluey, translucent pink opening credits lights up the cinema like a disco brothel bingo hall while Andrew Hung’s synth stabs flower into robot fart fusing grooves.
The story starts in a crusty back street similar to where Big Ron and son repeatedly barked “bullshit artist!” at each other. AEWBLL then introduces us to the wonky, oddball staff of a ramshackle diner, muddled by anxiety over the threat of unemployment after slime-ball manager Shane Danger (Emile Hirsch) announces that he is forced to sack one of them. Shane opts to fire his wife, waitress Lulu (Aubrey Plaza). The story then follows Lulu as she goes on the run with nincompoop hitman Colin (Jermaine Clement), a can of stolen cash and an ulterior motive to track down old flame Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson).
Where The Greasy Strangler was exquisitely nauseating and brilliant locked laughs into involuntary gag reflexes, given the greasy murder penchant of its twisted main characters, AEWBLL is much more accessible and poignant than its predecessor. This is mostly thanks to protagonist Lulu, Plaza’s performance which supresses her character’s almighty love for Beverly and hope to win his heart. Every character is fashioned with a foible to make them more than a compulsory plot cog.
Matt Berry dons his lounge lion guise but mollifies the Brian Blessed-like vocals as cabaret manager Rodney Von Donkensteiger (best name ever). Jermaine Clement doesn’t veer too far from his hipster Norbit hybrid but once again plays it so wonderfully. The real stars are Plaza and Robinson as the couple in love but kept apart by the conniving cock of Von Donkensteiger. Craig grouses and scowls in his dialogue free role like a muzzled Mr T, but Lulu is the less caricature-like when compared to the weirdos around her.
The plot plods along to the Evening of the title with mounting anticipation of Luff Linn’s show. Fans of Hosking’s unique comedy will not be disappointed by the pay-off, but despite delivering chuckles for the better part, AEWBLL dawdles in the last act before flat-lining through an elongated finale (beyond the show) and into a redundant mid end credit sequence. Hosking mashes the same John Waters style trash aesthetics with Lynchian weirdness, a nip of Tom Six/ Todd Solondz and a douse of a drunk Wes Anderson being sick on a model village. His untamed fancy and downright audacity is winning for the better part but will be aggravate some. While Hoksing may never completely break free from the art/ sleaze underground cine-margins, AEWBLL harvests more heart than TGS, which does suggest some kind of ripening.
This is our review from Sundance London 2018, for our take on it from its world premiere in Park City click here.