Grant Vance chats with An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn writer-director Jim Hosking…
Jim Hosking makes weird movies.
He proved that with his deep-fried debut feature, The Greasy Strangler, and reinforced it with his new absurdist character piece An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn. If you want a surface level adjective, sure: it’s some fun, divisive yet distinctive,“weird” stuff. That’s old news.
Like any distinctive director’s wheelhouse worth watching, there’s much more depth to Hosking’s work than surface level tropes. Tracing back to his BBC short “Little Clumps of Hair,” Hosking’s circular dialogue and absurdist tendencies are found in a friendly get together in which the lead is ashamed of his mustached little clumps, so he hides them with a plastic prosthetic on his upper lip. Why wouldn’t he? It is “weird,” but it is also quite funny and charming. It also has a lot to say about the nature of how we fester and conceal our insecurities from even our closest friends.
In Beverly Luff Linn, Hosking drops the horror elements found in The Greasy Strangler and his ABCs of Death 2 outing to revisit his more straight forward character-oriented absurdism. His new flick is chopped full of his trademark humor, dialogue, and tonal world building, with a surprisingly sweet relationship brewing at its center. It has some big names (some of the biggest in comedy today, in fact) and some familiar faces to fans of Hosking’s previous work. I quite enjoyed it.
Read our discussion touching on all above the above (and of course, much more) below.
Can you tell me a little bit about your progression from your first short “Little Clumps of Hair” to bigger studio projects with An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn?
Well, I don’t know about “big studio” stuff. It’s been a bit of a long road for me. Compared to other people I do tend to make quite individual, distinctive and unconventional work. I’ve been to lucky to have found some producers along that way that have seen some of the things that I’ve done and wanted to make stuff with me. I managed to make my first feature and then this one happened pretty quickly after The Greasy Strangler.
I started working at MTV and I was directing little promos and things for them. I’ve always enjoyed thinking up characters and writing strange sort of stuff that I feel like if I didn’t make it than no one else would be making anything else quite like it. That tickles me. I like the idea of getting stuff out there that will give people a different kind of experience. I’ve never been remotely strategic or careerist. I’m terrible at networking. I don’t come into interviews and know exactly what I’m going to say about this film or about anything. It’s just more to kind of let stuff flow out of me and it’s taken me from short films to features. But I like to not know where I’m going or even why I’m doing what I’m doing. And to feel as surprised as anyone else on something that I’m making.
Absolutely, I really like it. It’s very genuine. I see that in your character’s dialogue—an earnest sincerity. Maybe even a sense of satire for the banalities of conversation?
I grew up watching a lot of British comedies that were about frustrated, embittered individuals who were feeling like life was conspiring against them. Classic British filmmakers like Mike Leigh and Ken Loach are very much grounded in that reality and banality. That does appeal to me. But at the same time I just wanted to turn the styling of the characters and the world that I’m creating up a little bit. Then it becomes something a little different.
It’s nice that you talk about the earnestness of the dialogue and the banality. Sometimes people focus on the absurdity of the work that I make, but I feel like everything in it is definitely possible or definitely believed by characters. It’s very committed. It can of course be quite an absurd set of circumstances. But it’s possible—well, The Greasy Strangler not entirely.
I love the idea of pushing that banality even a step further. With Luff Linn it was important to me that the characters aren’t really funnier than they might be in real life. It’s not the type of comedy where everyone has some cleverly crafted witticism. So I don’t mind creating characters that feel annoying or boring or frustrating or intermittently funny. It’s just rather like the people you meet in real life.
A sort of existentialism? In my interpretation at least.
You can find yourself even in real life having a conversation that feels very securitist. I know that I enjoy repetition quite a lot in the comedy or the writing. But that’s just something that I feel like life is like. It feels like you’re in this cage or this box or some sort of confined space endlessly fighting the same battles and waking up and having the same seven thoughts go through your head on a little wheel. It’s just…it’s how I experience life.
That’s cool. I sense that a lot in Collin’s (Jermaine Clement) monologue about the origin of his name. It means a lot to him, but Lulu (Aubrey Plaza) isn’t entirely interested.
That’s the kind of story where it would be so fun to make a film where there was a 15 minute scene. Where somebody is talking for 15 minutes about the origin of their name. And it’s just mind-crushingly dull. I love the idea of filming something like that and just seeing where that takes the viewer. I don’t ever see that.
I’m into that. On the topic of style, Beverly Luff Linn feels much more akin to “Little Clumps of Hair”, whereas The Greasy Strangler felt much more akin to ABCs of Death 2’s “G is for Grandad”. That latter had more of that “genre-horror” vibe where the former are more of character pieces.
With “G is for Grandad” from ABCs of Death 2, there’s mandate with all of those segments that somebody has to die within them. So I suppose there is that sort of horror aspect to it. But to me what I love about that film is the two characters and how they play off each other. And I love the dialogue and I love that dynamic. I’m less interested with the horror aspect or the physical deformities or weirdities that might be discovered at the end of it. It’s really about the characters. Same with The Greasy Strangler. I wrote that with a friend of mine, Toby Harvard, and he’s probably a bit more into genre films than I am. But the script can become a melding of both of your visions.
I know what really excited me in that film was the casting of those characters and the confinement of living together, living on top of each other. The very sort of repetitive, squabbling father and son dialogue. That really fascinated me. But it’s always about the characters at the end of the day. I get quite bored when I’m shooting anything with any kind of Special Effects or prosthetics or having to wait around for anything. I would love to make a film with no Special Effects where there’s very little lighting even and it just feels like you can move very freely and very quickly and it’s just about the actors and the story. Luff Linn is maybe more like that than The Strangler.
But I feel like I’m still trying to create a very distinctive, memorable world that felt kind of sad and bleak, but also funny and feels like it’s a bit steeped in the past in the way that a lot of people’s lives are. A lot of people don’t have the current haircut or the current clothes or the current record. And no one says “record” anymore. They just have shitty old cars and haircuts that were given to them by their aunts.
It’s a cool world and aesthetic. I love when an atmosphere is almost a character unto itself. That’s very consistent in your work.
I try to go with my instincts on that sort of stuff while also being mindful of how everything will kind of interact and how the elements interact with one another and becomes a cohesive parallel world of some kind.
I wanted to touch on working with friends. I noticed you have recurring actors and have heard you reference your tight-knit people you like to work with. Any sort of advice on the topic?
In a way I’ve always been quite surprised…I don’t really watch comedy. I tend to watch more serious films—what people would call “arthouse” films. Yet I make these films that feel very different to the kind of films that I watch. All I think is that people should make whatever they want to make. I think you can smell when someone is making a sort of formulaic film that someone is making to try to get a leg up in the film industry. Personally that’s not what interests me.
I’ve always been inspired by filmmakers who make work that’s very individual to them. Whether that’s Fassbender or David Lynch or whoever. I just think you should listen to yourself and just do what you want to do, really. It takes a long time to make a film. If you get to the end of it and don’t know why you made it or it doesn’t feel like it came from you or is from you…that must feel quite sad.
Who knows with what I do next. Maybe no actors. Just a vacuum cleaner.
Many thanks to Jim Hosking for taking the time for this interview
An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is set for release on October 19th in the US and October 23rd in the UK, with home-entertainment release on October 29th.
Images courtesy of Universal Pictures Content Group.