“Joshy”: The Boys Get Out of Town
Thomas Middleditch and half of your favorite comic actors come together for a non-bachelor party.
Joshy might be a rather anemic, wet, and non-descriptive title for a movie, but that’s because the central character after whom it’s named is also rather anemic, wet, and non-descriptive. Which is precisely the point, because Thomas Middleditch’s Josh(y, as he’s called by his friends) isn’t in the best of places, seeing that his bachelor party weekend with a small group of friends has been upended by the fact there’s no longer a bride-to-be. That, essentially, is the gist of the movie, which channels Joshy’s broken-hearted despair through the ridiculous antics of his friends and a whole bunch of alcohol and drugs. While the premise is certainly bleak, in the hands of writer/director Jeff Baena (who also wrote and directed 2014 zom-rom-com Life After Beth and co-wrote I Heart Huckabees a decade before) it becomes a heartwarming, amusing tale full of uplifting humor.
Joshy does occasionally veer a little too far into slapstick territory, but on the whole, the blend of tragedy and comedy is spot on, veering between the two naturally and effortlessly. That’s thanks in large part to the chemistry of a very able cast—not just Joshy’s inner circle (a sweet and infuriating collection of characters played by Adam Pally, Nick Kroll, and Alex Ross Perry) but also those on the periphery (a boisterous Brett Gelman, a lovable Jenny Slate, and a typically dour and deadpan Aubrey Plaza)—who go through a series of blundering misadventures in and near a rented house, guided only by excess and a desire to make the most of a terribly sad and ironic situation.
While the premise is certainly bleak, in the hands of Jeff Baena it becomes a heartwarming, amusing tale full of uplifting humor.
Though a few of its characters are more like caricatures, and the plot at times tiptoes on the edges of reality, Joshy nevertheless works well precisely because of those exaggerations. Gelman’s over-the-top performance, for example, reminds the audience of that one friend who’s always overstepping the line of common decency, while Perry’s portrayal of the cautious, somewhat neurotic, and way too wet-behind-the-ears friend serves as his perfect foil. Together, they, along with the other personalities present—not least Middleditch’s tormented and distraught (yet still somehow defiant and, every so often, upbeat) center-piece—serve to explore almost every facet of human nature, whether that’s love, loss, lust, jealously, insecurity, courage, terror, or downright silliness. Of course, we’re not talking Dostoyevsky-esque levels of insight and penetration here, but you feel for these chracters—for all them—because deep down, they remind you of all your friends, both at their worst, but, more importantly, at their best.
As such, when the film suddenly wraps up and the credits start to roll, you do feel a slight sense of loss that this ill-fated weekend is over, in much the same way that a drunken night out with old friends you rarely see anymore never lasts long enough. Joshy might be crass and juvenile at times, but that’s because, however old we are, we never fully outgrow all of our crass and juvenile inclinations, especially around the people we’ve known the longest and who know us best. To that degree, more than anything else, Joshy is a wonderful testament to the power and strength of friendship in the face of adversity—even if your friends can act like total selfish dicks at the time you need them most. And while it’s not a groundbreaking, visionary movie that’s going to change the face of comedy as we know it, it’s nevertheless a warm, life-affirming, often hilarious film devoid of pretentions and which has its heart—broken, drunk, immature, or otherwise—firmly in the right place. FL