VOD film review: An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn
Plaza & Clement8
Berry & Robinson8
Matthew Turner | On 13, Mar 2019
Director: Craig Hosking
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Emile Hirsch, Jemaine Clement, Matt Berry, Craig Robinson
British writer-director Craig Hosking made an unforgettable debut with 2016’s The Greasy Strangler, a deranged black comedy that was as disgusting as it was hilarious. For his second film, Hosking has toned down the gross-out factor a little, but his unique comic rhythms are still a joy to behold and he’s picked up a fabulous name cast to boot.
Aubrey Plaza plays Lulu Danger, the less-than-satisfied wife of coffee shop manager Shane (Emile Hirsch), whose disastrous heist attempt on brother-in-law Adjay (Sam Dissanayake) leads to him being menaced by hired thug Colin (Jemaine Clement). Seizing her moment, Lulu leaves Shane and checks into a nearby hotel with deeply smitten Colin, because her former lover, Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson), is set to perform there. However, Beverly’s manager-slash-partner Rodney Von Donkensteiger (Matt Berry) is extremely jealous and keeps thwarting Lulu’s efforts to talk to Beverly.
As with The Greasy Strangler, Hosking takes familiar genre elements (serial killer horror for Strangler, film noir here) and makes them entirely his own, from his depiction of ridiculously incompetent small town crime to his portrayal of Lulu and Colin as a lustful femme fatale and her smitten patsy.
One of the most pleasing elements of An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn is the realisation that Aubrey Plaza, Emile Hirsch, Jemaine Clement, Matt Berry and Craig Robinson must have all seen and loved The Greasy Strangler. To that end, the actors all adopt Hosking’s distinctive comic rhythms, which range from the comedy of repetition (here used for an inventive transition shot) to a colourful way with a line delivery. As with Strangler, the dialogue is deliciously quotable and every scene is packed with weird and wonderful off-the-wall moments.
The performances are superb. Plaza continues to make fascinating comedy choices with her career (see also: Life After Beth, Ingrid Goes West, The To Do List) and she’s on terrific form as Lulu, whether indulging in delightful deadpan, doing a dance routine (certain to be a GIF near you soon) or visibly lusting over Robinson’s Beverly during a brilliantly directed swimming pool sequence.
Similarly, Clement is fantastic, generating considerable comic chemistry with Plaza (their back-and-forth exchanges are a constant highlight) and managing to make Colin simultaneously pathetic and surprisingly sweet. Berry, in turn, is very funny as possessive Rodney – like Clement, he doesn’t stray too far from his more established screen persona and his distinctive delivery proves a perfect fit for Hosking’s work.
The film is decidedly light on plot, but Hosking makes up for it with some fabulous flourishes, not least the nature of Beverly Luff Linn’s stage act, a “magical experience” the script tantalisingly postpones as long as possible. It’s worth the wait.
On top of that, the film is heightened by some truly hideous production design work, with the sets and costumes suffused with horrible shades of brown and orange in what feels like an unspecified 1970s / 1980s setting. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there’s a lot to enjoy here for those prepared to jump in with both feet. Either way, the film confirms Hosking as a British talent with a unique comic voice and it will be fascinating to see what he does next.