2016’s The Greasy Strangler was a landmark in absurdist comedy. It was a grotesque live action cartoon of weird-looking folks, deformed dongs, and a whole lot of grease. It was a flapjack tower of weird piled on top of weird and drenched in a syrup of toxic waste. It was a film that could absolutely never be made outside of the independent scene, but The Greasy Strangler garnered director Bob Hosking enough attention that he’s returned with a cast of famous faces and the backing of Universal. An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn was bound to be a toned down and tamer tale, but could Hosking’s knack for mechanical movements, emotional outbursts, and prolonged scenes of discomfort still succeed in the more restrictive atmosphere?
An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn
Director: Bob Hosking
Release: October 19, 2018
In a few scenes, Rodney Von Donkensteiger (Matt Berry), the partner of poet Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson) rubs Beverly’s bloated stomach as supernatural synth swells in the background. Beverly grunts while Rodney encourages him to give birth to what’s in his tummy. After a moment, Beverly squeaks out the tiniest of farts. That’s basically the entire movie in a nutshell. It’s crammed packed tight as a drum with characters and plotpoints, and moments of great comedy have to eek out between.
We have a twisty setup that sees Shane Danger (Emile Hirsch) the ever-enraged husband of Lulu (Aubrey Plaza) rob her vegan brother Adjay (Sam Dissanayake) when she informs Shane that Adjay has a bunch of money in a lockbox. This leads Adjay to hire Colin (Jermaine Clement) to get his money back, and when Colin arrives at the house and retrieves the box, Lulu sees this as her chance to run away. Colin tags along to protect her, and they use the money to rent a hotel room and see Beverly Luff Linn for a one-night-only show that promises to be a life-changing experience.
While time slips to this inevitable evening and characters make their way to the hotel, Hosking finds slim moments to showcase his signature strangeness. When Lulu sees Beverly in the hotel pool as he grunts and splashes like a monster claiming the ocean and she’s brought to near-orgasm by his movements, it’s certainly a one-of-a-kind sight. Colin talking about taking poops as a kid is uncomfortable and hilarious. Also, I’ve never seen people fuck inside a laundromat washer before. It’s cool.
However, Hosking spends too much time languishing in the dead spaces between, creating an unsuccessful hybrid of bland comedy antics and pure oddity. The humanity that Plaza and Clement offer their characters grounds their irrational outbursts and odd lines and seems to rob them of Hosking’s stilted humor. Hirsch, however, is an ever-snarling maniac that’s a joy to watch, and there’s a perverse thrill to see actors attempting depth in a movie where Dissanayake runs around and bleats enraged shouts that sound like dying birds. There are scenes in my head that I replay over and over, and I honestly can’t say whether or not they’re funny. That’s a notable feeling in its own right.
Without question, though, the last fifteen minutes of this movie suck. Beverly Luff Linn is this groaning Frankenstein’s monster with constant mystery swirling around him. So many scenes both in music and action hint at supernatural elements for the titular evening, and once it arrives the characters are assembled for what appears to be a blowout of bizarre that’s been bottled up like the many farts in Luff Linn’s gut.
But no, we’re dealt a crushing disappointment. This moment, which ought to be a highlight of absurdity, normalizes every bit of weird to do with Beverly right down to his name. After that are the predictable beats to a conventional ending, and it’s all so painfully underwhelming. Though An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn is still pretty damn weird, it will test you. Whether it’s your sense of anti-humor, your patience, or your desire to see some shocking shit, it will certainly falter at key moments and leave you wondering if your evening wouldn’t have been better spent with someone else.