I shouldn’t have to tell you that we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. The death toll in the United States is over 121k as of this writing. Theaters have yet to reopen and new movie release dates keep getting pushed further and further back as an end to the plague, despite mass denial, is nowhere in sight. And as much as I love the classic cinema of the 1930s and 40s, sometimes I want to watch a movie from any year in my lifetime.
Deviating from The List’s dogmatic order for new movies is acceptable. Like Blood Machines, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn isn’t what I’d call a traditional ‘new’ movie, both premiering over 6 months ago. However, they both recently made their premieres on streaming services which in the COVID-19 age is the best I’m going to get to a blockbuster. It’s a brave new world after all.
Jim Hosking, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn‘s director, is a relatively new cinematic voice; The Greasy Strangler being his only previous feature length film. If you’ve not seen any of his work, then please allow me to illustrate his style by comparing him to other well known auteur filmmakers.
Tim & Eric, Wes Anderson and Jared Hess all made names for themselves with absurd celebrations of the extraordinarily mundane that feature amateur talent, comically awkward line readings, and stylized production designs that are so oddly ordinary one could easily presume they exclusively stock their costume and set design departments at thrift stores. I believe Jim Hosking is the next in this line of artists.
I watched An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn expecting weirdness and praying for plot. It’s not as catastrophically absurd or as well constructed as The Greasy Strangler, if you’ve seen it you’ll know how damning that is, but it has its moments. Often supplied by its arguably overqualified cast. Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clement and Craig Robinson are possibly most recognizable for their TV roles on Parks and Recreation, Flight of the Conchords and The Office respectively. The name and face recognition they add to a movie like An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn may attract a more mainstream audience unfamiliar with the stranger side of their resumes. Watch Safety Not Guaranteed, Gentlemen Broncos, and Zack and Miri Make a Porno to see their lesser known work. Matt Barry isn’t on the poster but he brings a world class comedic talent that may finally be getting the recognition he deserves after landing a starring role on Clement’s FX show What We Do in the Shadows (look out for occasional guest star Craig Robinson… notice too the character named Colin Robinson, maybe an amalgam of Clement’s character in An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn and Craig’s last name? Anything’s possible right?). Barry’s impressive resume features such standout performances as Dixon Bainbridge on The Mighty Boosh, Todd Rivers on Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place and Douglas Reynholm on The IT Crowd. Watch all of those shows, he’s brilliant. Each of these actors bring their best work to the screen in An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn but none more than Plaza. She made me want to believe her tears were real, even if they shouldn’t be.
Any attempt at plot synopsis for An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn (Why haven’t I abbreviated the title yet?) would be pointless. Think of how difficult it would be to sell the premises of Groundhog Day or The Big Lebowski. Describing what happens in a comedy isn’t the same as experiencing it. A guy lives the same day over and over again, a stoner gets caught up in a surreal melodrama when he gets mistaken for a rich guy because they have the same name. That doesn’t do those movies justice any more than if I said An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is the story of an unhappy woman who spends four days in a hotel figuring out her life. See? It can’t mean anything if you’re not experiencing it first hand. Stay away if you can’t handle weirdness, dive in if you do.