It’s possible The Greasy Strangler isn’t the greatest movie ever made. Who can say? But even if it’s not the greatest, it at least supplied us with a steady stream of bad taste antics that felt sincere and surprising enough to make converts look forward to whatever Jim Hosking did next, especially if Strangler’s notoriety earned him access to acting talent like Aubrey Plaza, Craig Robinson and Jemaine Clement.
But it turns out Hollywood has tamed Hosking. An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn (two words) is certainly weird by relative standards, but by Hosking’s it’s practically a prestige picture. This wouldn’t be an issue if the film were good, but Hosking’s stab at sincerity is a boring, unfunny slog, particularly during its interminable second half.
This is doubly disappointing because the first half is so promising. There are no swinging dicks or popped eyeballs, but the film starts out of the right foot, with Emile Hirsch giving a performance hilariously modulated for Hosking’s world where everyone looks and speaks like a gross cartoon character. Hirsch plays Shane, a tyrannical restaurant manager married to Plaza’s Lulu, who also works at the restaurant. When cutbacks force Shame to fire Lulu, she runs off with professional nobody Colin (Jemaine Clement) to see her ex-flame Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson) a mysterious entertainer who is playing at a hotel near her for one night only.
Things start off so well. Hirsch is perfect. Clement isn't trying to be in a Hosking film, but his character still kind of works. Plaza is about an inch to the left of her normal shtick. It’s weird and funny and shows a bunch of promise.
Then the characters all go to this hotel, and the rest of the film focuses on about three different overlapping romances, trading weird jokes for an hour-long game of delayed gratification that moves like molasses and hardly goes anywhere.
Because Hirsch, the only actor playing in Hosking’s realm, largely disappears at this point, there’s no one in the main cast who can really remind us were watching a Hosking film. It quickly devolves into something more akin to a Jered Hess movie, all quirk with no real bite. No one comes off worse in the movie than Craig Robinson, who is stuck in a mostly mute role where he growls instead of speaking. It is excruciating.
This is a perfect example of a sophomore slump endeavor, in which Hosking loses himself to greater resources. I have a feeling he’ll hit back though, probably by doubling down on what made us like him in the first place. I look forward to that with great, wonderful terror.