The first footage of Jim Hosking’s sophomore effort banks on Aubrey Plaza and Jermaine Clement to deliver some very deadpan lines, but it totally works.
Of everyone in the Parks and Recreation cast, Aubrey Plaza has held my attention the most ardently. I know Chris Pratt is now a bona fide leading man, wrangling dinosaurs and saving the galaxy for Marvel. Amy Poehler hosts her own sketch comedy show and recently made her feature debut as a director. Rashida Jones wrote a smashing Black Mirror episode and currently stars in her own comedy series. Adam Scott found dramatic success in HBO’s Big Little Lies. It’s harder to praise Aziz Ansari these days, but he did make waves with Master of None.
In comparison, Plaza’s onscreen credits have been staggering too, and she is additionally so unreadable as the deliberate posterchild for anti-enthusiasm. Her beginnings in film echo the likes of her Parks and Rec character April. We can witness this every time she yells a bleeped-out swear word at Michael Cera in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
However, Plaza has committed more fearlessly and shamelessly to her work over the years. With immense stride, she takes on characters that are odd (Life After Beth), conventional (The To-Do List), and even extremely asinine (Dirty Grandpa). Her signature deadpan delivery has only gotten more precise over the years, especially as she descends into the realm of strange and unsettling comedy. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is a fine movie, but Ingrid Goes West is the one that’s truly made for Plaza.
And maybe so is a Jim Hosking film. Regardless of one’s tolerance for extremely disgusting things — although it’s best that potential watchers have the ability to stomach large amounts of grossness — Hosking’s debut film The Greasy Strangler got tongues wagging for its surreal plot and distinctive world-building. His sophomore effort An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn already seems equally inexplicable; at least, that’s what the film’s brand new trailer would have us believe. Feast your eyes on the clip below. Don’t worry about making sense of any of it.
Beneath the veneer of apparently unrelated vignettes lies an actual story. An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn centers on Lulu Danger (Plaza), a woman who struggles in her marriage to a wily husband named Shane (Emile Hirsch). After he fires her from his coffee shop and she suddenly has time to kill, Lulu chances upon a television commercial featuring a man she once knew.
That plaid-clad man, known as Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson), will have a one-night-only performing engagement, and Lulu is desperate to attend it. Meanwhile, Shane plots to steal from Lulu’s adopted brother Adjay (Sam Dissanayake). He and his associates go on the run with Adjay’s cash box, but Shane’s plan goes askew when a “specialist” called Colin (Jemaine Clement) steps in to go after the money. As Lulu sets off in search of Beverly, Colin also begins to fall for her, putting our leading lady in some kind of a love square.
The trailer works the best by showcasing the talents of its cast in the most random yet remarkable-looking set pieces. In what little footage we’ve seen of her so far, Plaza is a delight as such a demanding, obsessive, yet totally alluring protagonist. Clement already seems like her ultimate match too, even though we’re aware of other players in his periphery like Hirsh and Robinson. This is mostly due to the fact that Plaza and Clement get to interact with one another and bounce off each other’s non-energy. That may sound lethargic and unappealing in text form, but their unmatched dedication to the film’s oddball premise is clear as day in the trailer.
It almost feels like a fitting meta moment that Clement specifically tells Plaza he doesn’t know “quite what’s going on” in the chaos of their narrative, but he likes it. To have too many expectations about a film like this would likely set oneself up for failure. Regardless, we can still draw comparisons between The Greasy Strangler and An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn in order to get a feel for what the latter will be like.
Already, Hosking’s movies appear to be set in similarly off-beat worlds. The films sport a distinctive color palette that’s simultaneously muted and vibrant, which lends an auteurial quirkiness to the equally idiosyncratic situations and dialogue of each story. A staccato intonation is shared in the line delivery of The Greasy Strangler and An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, possibly marking the genesis of a cinematic legacy that’s not unlike the repeated eccentricity of Wes Anderson. It’ll just be a billion times more offensive.
The Greasy Strangler is exceptionally unabashed at pushing narrative boundaries to a point where “raunchy” or “crude” don’t even begin to describe the intensity of its vulgarity. However, there’s a chance that An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn may be a little more subdued in that department.
When the latter film premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January, the cast and crew posited that the world of Hosking’s second feature is definitively less confronting than that of his first. It could even, in fact, be “sweet,” according to Clement in an interview with IndieWire:
“I read the script first. I was interested based on the script. I said ‘yes’ [to star in the film]. And then I saw Jim’s first film ‘Greasy Stranger,’ and I thought, ‘That’s a very strange and weird, disturbing film.’ But it made the sweet comedy of this one more interesting.”
Robinson agreed with Clement’s statements, and Plaza herself iterated in the same interview that the movie has “a really nice feeling” about it. She has been careful to assure audiences that An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn continues to work within uninhibited peculiarity, though, noting to Entertainment Weekly that “it really solidifies Jim’s filmmaking vision and style. It’s so hard to describe, but it’s so specific, and absurd, and funny, and unlike anything I’ve ever been in.”
The bottom line in Hosking’s burgeoning cinematic continuity is that he doesn’t compromise on his vision. Their niche quality is evident, but having the right people like Plaza serve as the gateway into accepting their strange magnetism is the right call. Now more than ever, I’m certainly tempted to find out just how “magical” An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is.
An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn hits theaters on October 19th.