Absurdism on the screen is an acquired taste reliant perhaps more than other genres on the viewer being in the mood for something screwy beyond measure.
It can be wearing, or invigorating, novel or intentionally trite, populated by Pythonesque eccentrics and Fellini grotesques trapped in Theatre of the Absurd presented as Cinema of the Weird, Weirder and Weirdest.
All of which apply to the daft “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn,” a farce with wry giggles scattered through its first hour, followed by the genuinely dizzy and cute “event” itself.
It’s about a woman’s passion for a long-ago love, a love she hopes to rekindle by being in attendance when the oddball Beverly Luff Linn appears in “a one night only event” that everybody expects to be “magical.”
The event’s details are kept from us until the third act. We’re late learning what this Beverly Luff Linn does, but the fact that he grunts and growls rather than speaks and is played by Craig Robinson points us in the general direction of the surreal.
With Aubrey Plaza as the obsessed ex-paramour, Lulu, Emile Hirsch as Shane Danger, Lulu’s coffee bar manager husband and Jemaine Clement as the gun-for-hire she relies on to get her to the “event” on time, we can’t say we sit down for this without being forewarned.
Director Jim Hosking and co-writer David Wike’s script is one you can hear the actors enthusing, “Man, this is NUTS” as they insist they’re doing it to their incredulous agents.
Manic Shane Danger is ordered to lay off one employee at the chain store coffee shop, and he chooses Lulu his wife.
He learns that her profane/insane Indian brother Adjay (Sam Dissanayake) has a full “cash box” in his health food store and enlists a couple of Fellini film flunkies to join him in donning ridiculously obvious disguises to rob it.
Adjay hears a pitch from stranger Colin (Clement) who offers to get the cash back for a fee.
“I promise you I’ll blow out both his kneecaps!”
But when Colin shows up to robs the robbers, Lulu turns the whole debacle around in her favor, takes the money and Colin and Colin’s gun.
She has plans for that cash, plans to buy her way into “An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn.” For days, they hole up in the Morehouse Hotel, waiting for the delicate diva Linn and his “partner…plantonic,” Rodney von Donkensteiger (Matt Berry) to put on their show. Lulu keeps throwing herself in from of Beverly Luff Linn, Colin keeps throwing himself at her.
They down exotic drinks named “Rumble in the Heather” and the like, bicker, LOUDLY — “OK LULU I’M GOING OUT AND I’M GOING TO FEAST ON SNACKS!” Crazy-eyed bit players stage coughing jag gags, lots of them have melt-downs to rival Hirsch, an old hand at nutty collapses.
Adjay? “He choked on too much breast milk when he was a baby.”
Lulu? A sexual come-on waiting to happen. “I’m going to take a bath. Why don’t you watch…TV?”
Noble and naive Colin? He’s jealous.
“Beverly’s a woman’s name.”
“No, it isn’t, Colin. Beverly is a man’s name.”
“SCOTTISH woman’s name!”
Pages of arch, campy dialogue roll past over a doom-laden electronic score.
The shrieks of profanity, explicit sex, bits of violence and genera;inside joke” nature of the oddness is like a John Waters version of a Wes Anderson farce with Coen Brothers caricatures for characters.
And my reaction veered between “Oh my God,” and “cute” to echoing Lulu’s dismissal of Colin’s way with an anecdote — “This is by far the most uninteresting story I have ever heard.”
Until that finale. It takes an absurdly long time getting here, but with a lot of “Man, that’s nuts” along the way, it’s pretty much worth the wait.
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, and for some sexuality/nudity
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clement, Emile Hirsch, Craig Robinson
Running time: 1:48