An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn (2018)
Written by Jim Hosking and David Wike
Directed by Jim Hosking
Lulu Danger is stuck in an unsatisfying marriage to Shane, the manager at Bob’s Coffee. One day, while she lounges around watching television, a commercial comes across the screen for a magical evening with an enigmatic figure named Beverly Luff Linn. Lulu paws through a dresser drawer to uncover photographs of her and this Mr. Beverly from some time in her past. Meanwhile, Shane steals money from Lulu’s vegan cousin who in turn hires a drifter named Colin to retrieve the cash. Lulu uses this as an opportunity to run off with the money and Colin to the hotel where Beverly will be performing. She hopes to rekindle whatever old flames existed between the two of them. What she didn’t count on is Rodney von Donkensteiger, Beverly’s handler or the fact that Colin is falling in love with her.
An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is an entirely ridiculously written, acted, and constructed film and this is all intentional. The smartest thing director Hosking has done in his casting selections. The sense of humor in the movie lends itself to people who can deadpan the absurd, so he employs Aubrey Plaza and Jemaine Clement as his leads. Both actors have carved out a niche with that style of comedy, and they are perfect here. The supporting cast is a mix of comedy regulars, and non-professionals with all of the grotesqueries heightened and exaggerated. You’ll recall the work of Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim in the aesthetics and choices of amateurs, causing the world to exist in a near-horrific version of the late 1970s/early 1980s. I also felt vibes of the melodrama in Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s penchant for overacting and wild delivery of lines.
This is a noir crime film set in a nightmare landscape of mediocrity, where onion rings covered in melted Velveeta are a surprising delicacy. Colin is impressed by an entirely plain hotel room. Drinks are served that contain malted milk balls or a whole extra large tootsie roll. A spaced out elderly DJ plays the 1982 pop song “Words” while our two leads spastically dance and seal their love. The movie is a wonderful blend of acting and aesthetics that compliment each other perfectly. The problem is the story and that it doesn’t add up to much.
When you make a film so stylistically centered you better have a damn good script or the audience is going to lose interest. This is the ultimate fault of Beverly Luff Linn as the titular evening is hung over our head for two-thirds of the picture. When we are finally in the audience, and the show begins what I assume was meant to be an anti-climactic punchline turns out to be a genuine letdown. From there the story has nothing else to build towards so the plot falls into place hitting formulaic beats. Wow, Lulu and Colin are in love with each other, the sort of arc you would expect and feels beneath a movie with such a definite style.
Filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Rick Alverson have merged their idiosyncratic styles with well thought out stories and understand the arcs their characters will go through. It’s a tough task because a creative person can so easily get lost in the details of the world and how things look and people act. This doesn’t mean we need everything tied up in a bow or even a happy ending for the characters; we need a sense of an actual conclusion. Leave things open-ended but have a reason why. Beverly Luff Linn has a very neat and tidy ending; it just is a complete disappointment after a long build-up.