When watching anything there is usually a Eureka moment for me when I can say what that film is about. Be it something personal to just me or a grand theme that the director is prodding at in his own little way. That never came while watching Jim Hosking’s latest surreal comedy for the very simple reason. It requires multiple watches, the characters are funnily enough too complex despite the illusion that they are skin deep farcical creations of one mans fever dream imagination.
Telling the story of unhappily married Lulu Danger (Aubrey Plaza), a woman stuck in a small town existence until a series of events leads her to run away from her husband Shane (Emile Hirsch) with the help of aspiring thug Colin (Jermaine Clement). They find themselves at the Moorhouse hotel awaiting an event by illusive performer Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson), a man Lulu has a complicated past with. What follows is life changing and borderline psychotic.
Designed to be a crass, crazed hallucination, the simple undeveloped ideas of a filmmaker seeking to make something artistic but failing to put the effort into developing it. The fun of this notion however is that everything here is intentional. The spectacularly bad framing, the over abundance of extended bad jokes and some truly inhuman performances seem like decisions and choices that could have been avoided but the bizarre thing is, it all serves a greater purpose.
Thanks to it’s out there mentality a feeling of great sadness sweeps over the whole film, the feeling of dissociation carries over to the characters. This is a tale of lost love and finding the joy in your life once more. It might be encompassed in some vividly surreal comedy but there is greater meaning here even if it seems at times that Hoskings is having a joke at your expense. It might just be that he is doing both.
While the feeling of this world is one of hidden fears and regret, it is also one where fun and laughter and frivolity is hiding just under the surface, if only for the ones willing to take the risk and push themselves. The eccentricities these people display might just be a different side of them just waiting to break out. Then again it might just be a bizarre choice in the moment to mess with our collective heads. It’s all very confusing.
Besides all the ideas you can read into your viewing you can’t hide from the undeniable notion that it might just all be a huge lark, a film that professes to mean something but regularly leads you down the dead ends of farce. More than willing to play with expectations for a good joke, Hosking lets scenes drag on with no end in sight, giving them a dreary feel sure but always intimating that there is something to bookend them. They never seem to however.
He is backed up by a terrific Plaza who is known for her surreal, deadpan comedy. Here is is put to good use. She has the ability to make the outlandish agonisingly funny. Clement on the other hand uses the sadness swirling around the halls of the Moorhouse hotel to feed the psyche of his depressive loner. His commitment to such a loveless fool anchors the film in some semblance of realism despite all his far-fetched grand romantic gestures and ‘hardman’ antics.
All this adds up to a film that is hard to call high art or even great cinema. Hellbent on giving off a sub par persona. Full of shockingly bad performances, drastically off-putting changes in pace and a tone that goes from gleeful ignorance to painful melancholy, An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn feels more like a stage play, one where everything seems to be going wrong and someone behind the scenes is trying desperately to keep the whole thing moving to its inevitable conclusion, consequences be damned.
This is theatre in the way it uses spectacle and framing for much of its drama, comedy and everything in between. Full of outlandish characters wanting to be seen and never afraid of their full on behaviour, Hoskings wants them to be seen, understood and laughed at all in one. Seeking to connect you to the characters by making their actions understandable but way too excessive, it proves a hard task to pull off. However the level of laugh out loud moments and great ‘bad’ performances makes it easy to see why people would enjoy an evening with any of these people, let alone one with Beverly Luff Linn.