Both to its credit and to its detriment, Joshy’s defining characteristic is its familiarity. The movie, which sets its titular schmoe (Thomas Middleditch) off on his would-be bachelor party with a few old friends, a new neighbor, and a growing collection of loose acquaintances and total strangers, manages that rare feat of actually feeling like the sort of weekend getaways you’ve had with the gang. You get the feeling that this was a paramount commandment in the creative bible that reigned behind the Joshy screenplay: keep it authentic.
With the exception of the tragic course of events that sets the plot in motion in the first place, not to mention a few broader turns around the closest thing this film has to a climax, Joshy manages this ostensible goal. The characters are recognizable as your buds. Their conversations tantamount to your usual shtick. The conflicts that arise are reminiscent of the fights you’ve had among your nearest and dearest.
Whether this kind of authenticity is enough to fuel a movie from beginning to end is another question. Yes, Joshy has its share of laughs. Most of these owe thanks to Nick Kroll, always a reliable comic presence, as the A-type tagalong Eric, who has made it his mission statement to ensure that everybody has a great time despite the personal trauma that kicks off the eponymous Joshy’s story. A more surprising feat of joy comes from Alex Ross Perry, known principally for his directing (recent achievements include Listen Up Philip and Queen of Earth), but stealing scenes here as playfully dry geek Adam. Adam Pally, Jenny Slate, and Brett Gelman round out the central cast with downplayed variants on their usual brands, though the film’s adherence to the “mumblecore lite” aesthetic keeps any one of them from reaching his or her maximum potential kookiness.
But on a molecular level, Joshy never seems to give us a terrific understanding of where its story is coming from or going. This is evident when the film throws out baffling non sequitur sequences, such as a scene that introduces a character played by Lauren Graham for a total of 30 seconds before shoving her off into oblivion, never to be mentioned again. Joshy’s identity is muddled further when stakes escalate from internal turmoil and relationship issues to accusations of murder—and not for comic effect.
Ultimately, Joshy claims to be a story in defense of its main character’s right to a story all his own, even though the film never steps away from him long enough to make us consider that this was even a palpable threat. Expensed in favor of Middleditch’s nice guy protagonist are the stories of not only Lauren Graham’s one-off character, but of far more prominent figures—namely, his former fiancée (Alison Brie). Though Joshy accuses her presence of dominating his identity ad infinitum, we’re cut out of her story when it begs the loudest for exploration.
Stemming from the same (usually misguided) mentality that convinces anyone that his or her group outings would make for terrific screen material is that espoused by Joshy in favor of keeping attention on its own hero. Joshy might very well ring true for anyone who’s enjoyed—or endured—a weekend getaway with friends or acquaintances. You can’t take for granted that it’ll be immediately evident why your group and its constituents will be worth anyone else’s eye. Joshy doesn’t do much to prove this of its inhabitants, but it sure wants to insist they are.
Rating: 2 out of 5 burritos.
Featured Image: Lionsgate
Michael Arbeiter is the East Coast Editor of Nerdist. Find him on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.