Two years ago at Sundance, I walked into Jim Hosking’s film The Greasy Strangler. What followed was truly something, a frustrating yet magnetic work of trash cinema. I wanted to walk out with the third of the audience that did, but at the same time I couldn’t look away from what I was watching. I both loathed the film yet wanted everybody to see it. His followup, An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn, is definitely from the same mind of the guy that made The Greasy Strangler. I had similar conflicting feelings about it too. Hosking shows some significant growth as a filmmaker with Beverly, but still indulges his worst impulses with reckless abandon.
Lulu Danger (Aubrey Plaza) is a femme fatale that leaves her husband Shane (Emile Hirsch) to run off with drifter Colin (Jemaine Clement) to go see her former lover star in a show called “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn”.
One thing Hosking improves with is he gets a cast better suited to his loony aesthetic and who are skilled in comedy. They all really contribute and elevate the film’s humor when it gets stale. Aubrey Plaza is always great to watch in her element. Emile Hirsch is having a great time getting loony, and Jemaine Clement and Matt Berry are made for this sort of hilarity.
The problem is Hosking’s frustrating lack of self-control with his obtuse and absurdist sense of humor. Think Tim and Eric, but without the pitch perfect sense of comedic timing. Hosking lets certain gags go on excruciatingly long to the point where you’re just pleading for it to end. The joke just isn’t funny anymore. He just seems to have no clue about the nuances of comedic timing. There’s not a drop of subtlety in Hosking’s sensibilities, and while it can work tremendously at times – there were parts where I was laughing my ass off – it for the most part just makes you feel tired watching it. He’s poking and prodding you, shouting “Look at how whacky this is! It’s hilarious!” and jokes just aren’t as funny when you’re being told to laugh at them.
After the first 30 minutes, the laughs kept dying down as the film went on. We were just so exhausted of this frustrating humor, the joke just wasn’t funny anymore. There’s just not enough here to sustain it for the hour and 45 minute runtime he stretches it to. This film was just begging to be cut down to a slim 90 minutes. Hosking has a gonzo vision, he just still hasn’t quite figured out how to utilize it to its ultimate potential. I still believe Hosking has an iconic work in him, this just is not it. But at least he’s shown some emotional growth here with the final tender scenes of Beverly, which is really all I can ask of him.