Culture

Director Jim Hosking Uncovers The Strange Sadness of ‘An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn’

In An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, all the characters fight over small things. Some want control of Adjay’s (Sam Dissanayake) cash box, stuffed with the profits from his vegan store. Others are fighting for the affection of Lulu Danger (Aubrey Plaza), who meets all advances with the same aristocratic condescension, even as she hides out in the Moorhouse Hotel, an ancient fleabag.

As the titular evening draws near, a magical event featuring the talents of Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson), whatever they might be (no one seems to know), the stakes don’t look all that high. Which is fitting, because the inhabitants of An Evening of Beverly Luff Linn aren’t all that capable. Shane Danger (Emile Hirsch) keeps trying to disguise himself with a blonde wig, but no one’s fooled. Colin Keith Threadener (Jemaine Clement) presents himself as a man of action, but spends all his time pining for Lulu in his hotel room or at the bar, where he tells unbearable stories about his childhood.

Only Luff Linn—who swims a single, magisterial lap in the pool every day—seems up to the challenges life presents. That is, if his platonic love Rodney Von Donkensteiger (Matt Berry) can successfully massage all the gas out of his body in time for them not to blow the gig.

beverly-luff-linn Craig Robinson as Beverly Luff Linn. Universal Pictures

“All the characters are these self-involved, self-important islands in this tiny, inconsequential town. All of them are getting worked up about this event and they don’t even know what it is,” director and co-writer (with David Wike) Jim Hosking told Newsweek.

But while all of the characters are childish, bickering and emotionally stunted, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn takes their dramas seriously. Sure, Shane may dance like an idiot after his malformed cash box snatch-and-grab, but his anger is real enough. Rodney and Luff Linn’s performance may be to a decrepit audience of old people, gathered in a seedy conference room, but they build up to the event as if it were a high-wire act. The contrast between their self-image and reality is extreme in Hosking’s world, but there’s a strange dignity to the characters, even when they’re calling each other names like “big fat penis face.”

“I was keen to undercover the sadness in the film. That kind of sadness can tug at your heart strings and also be funny too,” Hosking said. “I was keen for everything to feel out of step with the world we live in, so it ends up feeling very different from our world.”

Nowhere is this more evident than in the absolutely outrageous costumes on display, from Luff Linn’s pink plaid to Lulu’s Jane Austen disco wear. “Ripped from the pages of decades-old J.C. Penney catalogs” is about as close as we can get to an apt description, but it’s not quite enough. But Hosking doesn’t see a contradiction between his characters’ absurdity and the seriousness of their feelings.

“In my life or the lives of my friends or my family, there’s probably quite a lot of burping and quite a lot of crying and that’s just how life is,” Hosking said. “I have friends who call each other very juvenile, immature insults and at the same time they might be having a very, very hard time in their lives connecting with their loved ones or keeping their marriage together. That just feels like humanity to me.”

This combination of immaturity and dignity is most challenged in the character of Luff Linn, who speaks in grunts and growls, instead of words. Robinson maintains a regal bearing throughout, even in gym shorts hitched above his belly button. Yet, the character’s true emotions must come through. This makes Luff Linn one of the strangest characters in movies this year, Hosking recalls Robinson took to the concept almost immediately.

“Craig read the script and then we had a phone call. He said to me, ‘So I express a whole language through just grunts?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s basically it,’ and then he gave me a couple of grunts over the phone and we laughed. That was probably it.”

The results are strange, funny and surprisingly soulful. As with his previous movie, The Greasy Strangler, Hosking creates a wholly unique world that feels beholden to no one.

“I didn’t have anyone confining me,” Hosking said, then emphasized how rare that is in the current movie marketplace. “Maybe they will confine me for the rest of my life.”

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