An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn (3 stars)

An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn

Filmmaker Jim Hosking struggles to hit the right notes with his Greasy Strangler follow-up

Writer-director Jim Hosking's second feature features a running gag in which a singer repeatedly postpones a concert. Similarly, Hosking never quite finds the right key for his wilfully befuddling, mock-noir comic romance.

With his debut, 2016's The Greasy Strangler, he walked a bracing tonal tightrope between gross-out comedy, stomach-turning horror, sly familial subtexts and midnight-movie provocations. He doesn't ditch the alt-America vision for the follow-up, but its bigger cast and broader palette over-stretch thin material, leaving only the occasional decent gag and on-point performance to take up the slack.

The anti-action unfolds like a stalled twist on David Lynch's on-the-lam classic Wild At Heart, with bored wife and waitress Lulu Danger (Aubrey Plaza) holed up with virginal heavy Colin (Jemaine Clement) in a retro hotel that taste forgot. While Colin pines for Lulu, she yearns for old flame Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson), a singer billed to perform a one-off show at the hotel. When Linn keeps postponing his gig, Lulu and Colin are left waiting while her husband Shane (Emile Hirsch) tracks them down.

The leads make the best of this enforced stasis. Plaza occupies Hosking's deadpan surreal world like she's born to it, though Clement banks the biggest laughs with his pathetic bids to impress: his monologue about childhood bowel movements and candy is a hapless delight. In support, Matt Berry musters plenty of wry spite as Linn's possessive life-partner, though Robinson himself is reduced to grunting with trapped wind.

Hosking's plot seems caught in its own cycles of repetition, which might not have mattered had its strenuous gags about sickly cocktails and old men's coughs been funny or fresh the first time, let alone the fifth. One killer gag is saved for Linn's show – it's quite the jaw-dropper. But viewers unwilling to indulge Hosking's quirks might have checked out of his hotel long before that "magical" moment.

General release from Tues 23 Oct.

An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • US / UK
  • 1h 48min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Jim Hosking
  • Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clement, Emile Hirsch, Craig Robinson, Matt Berry
  • UK release: 26 October 2018

Lulu (Plaza) and Colin (Clement) are holed up in a retro hotel, he pining for her, she pining for old flame Beverly (Robinson), a singer billed to perform there. Hosking returns to the grungy alt-America of his 2016 debut The Greasy Strangler and while Plaza, Clement and Berry do well, the plot is repetitive and static.