An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn (2018) seems to be a pretty divisive movie, with a (close as dammit) 50/50 split between positive and negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, from critics and users alike! And I can totally understand why so many people might find it off-putting… writer/director Jim Hosking opts for deliberate ugliness and low-key oddness throughout, with many supporting cast members delivering extremely “amateurish” performances, working from a rather shambling shaggy-dog of a script… however, I for one fall on the “thumbs up” side of the fence, thanks largely to the lead actors, who could probably make a phone-book sound hilarious with their collective mastery of comedic inflection and interpretation…
The ever-awesome Aubrey Plaza stars as small-town femme-fatale ‘Lulu Danger’*, working as a waitress in a coffee shop managed by her husband (Emile Hirsch), until he shamelessly “downsizes” her out of a job and commits an armed raid on her wealthy brother ‘Adjay’s (Sam Dissanayake) store! When the aggrieved elder sibling sends eager-but-untested “enforcer” ‘Colin’ (Jemaine Clement) to retrieve the stolen money, Lulu seizes the opportunity to escape her humdrum existence, and co-opt Colin as her own escort/driver. However, rather than going on a Bonny-and-Clyde-style spree across the country, the couple hide out at a nearby hotel which is hosting the title’s eponymous entertainer (played by Craig Robinson), and grow closer as they await the “magical night” promised by his enigmatic publicity material.
While fans of Plaza and Clement (like myself) will find plenty to enjoy here, Robinson’s admirers might feel rather more cheated despite his character’s prominence, as [SPOILER!] he spends the majority of the run-time grunting and growling like Frankenstein’s monster, rather than speaking or singing… and while there’s a valid reason given for his non-verbal status, which also builds a great deal of suspense around what exactly will happen when the spotlight finally hits him, it’s still a shame to see such a charismatic and outgoing actor suppressed like that. On the other hand, despite the artificiality evident in many aspects of the film, Matt Berry delivers a surprisingly sincere and natural performance as Beverly’s besotted manager/keyboardist ‘Rodney’.
So, overall, I had a good time with this movie, and look forward to rewatching it on DVD sometime… but I’m not sure I’d actually recommend it to anyone who wasn’t already crushing on (at least) one of the main cast members!
* To be fair to the writers, naming her petty weasel of a husband “Shane Danger”, as if he were some sort of daring pulp-fiction adventurer, was a solid gag, imho.