'An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn' Review: Aubrey Plaza Anchors An Absurd Rom-Com [Sundance]

The Sundance Film Festival is often populated with unconventional love stories, but An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn may take the proverbial cake this year. Legion co-stars Aubrey Plaza and Jemaine Clement make an unlikely pair in this deeply odd movie, a screwball odyssey into the absurd in which barely a single scene plays out in a conventional manner. There's a touching love story to be found here, but the off-the-wall humor encasing it is sure to throw off those who aren't willing to give themselves over to the film's outlandish world. Buckle up, because things are about to get freaky.

Recounting even the basic setup of this movie will probably sound like the ramblings of a maniac, but here goes. Lulu Danger (Plaza) is living an unfulfilled life with her douchey husband Shane (Emile Hirsch, doing his best Jim Carrey impression). After Shane and his employees rob Lulu's vegan brother (don't ask), a guy named Colin (Clement) enters the picture. With a retro '70s vibe that makes him look like a guitarist for a band like Styx, Colin is a self-proclaimed specialist at putting himself in harm's way for other people's gain, so he's enlisted to retrieve the brother's money. That's when he meets Lulu, and Lulu seizes her opportunity to use Colin as a bodyguard during a quest that means a lot to her: tracking down Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson), an enigmatic stage performer and former lover who communicates using Frankenstein-style grunts.

I haven't seen 2016's The Greasy Strangler, the previous film from writer/director Jim Hosking, so without a baseline to compare this to, I'll just say that while Beverly Luff Linn is off-kilter, it never crosses into what-the-hell-am-I-actually-watching territory. The narrative is clear, the character motivations make sense, and it maintains a consistent internal logic throughout – in other words, while the film is undeniably wacky, it's not so impenetrable that only hardcore fans of absurdist comedies will enjoy it.

Without giving too much away, I want to make sure people know the level of weird stuff that happens in this movie: someone coaxes multiple farts out of Craig Robinson's character by rubbing his tummy, there's an extended scene of someone having a coughing fit, there's a bartender named "The Captain," and Emile Hirsch's character – whose name, again, is "Shane Danger" – announces to his fast food restaurant staff that he's going to go to take a 25 minute shit. And those are just a few of the highlights.

But all that is just noise surrounding Plaza and Clement's relationship, and they invest their characters with enough pathos that it's easy to root for them. This is clearly Hosking's take on the rom-com genre, only filtered through his bizarre sensibility. "Although I don't quite know what's going on, I'm having a great time," Colin says at one point during all of this madness. I wouldn't go as far as to say An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn is a great time, but it's certainly a unique one. If you're a fan of this cast, chances are you'll find something to like here.

/Film Rating: 6 out of 10