Don’t be fooled into thinking writer/director Jeff Baena‘s “Joshy” is a lighthearted comedy about a bro’s bachelor party weekend in the woods — there are some very serious and somber themes at play here: and I liked it! Almost all films in this genre tend to overshare and show the same repetitive debauchery (massive drug use, booze drinking, guns and sex). But thankfully, this one is different. “Joshy” is most definitely in the spirit of traditional mumblecore but it’s surprisingly insightful (and actually good)!
I loved the brief introduction of minor characters who were out of the plot as quickly as they arrived. This worked to keep the story moving forward and prevented it from stalling. Each of the male characters has some serious stuff going on but we are never told exactly what; the audience is left to their own devices to devise their own backstory. Very effective.
The icing on the cake comes from the heartfelt performances all around from the dream team comedy roster of Jenny Slate, Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch, Adam Pally, Alex Ross Perry, Aubrey Plaza, and Brett Gelman. The film is perfectly cast and all of the actors completely sold their relationships. I didn’t detect one false note in this movie.
Oh, and did I mention it’s also funny? All of this solemnity and the multitude of tragic undertones are capped off by themes of finding support and friendship in the most unlikely of places.
“Joshy” is one of those movies that defies audience expectations. You take an ensemble cast of actors mostly known for their comedic work and throw them right in the middle of a dramedy that is heavy on the former and light on the latter, and most people don’t know how to react. Certainly, the audience that watched the movie with me didn’t — they insisted on laughing at things that weren’t funny simply because they thought it was supposed to be a comedy and there were funny actors onscreen.
The story starts out with a horrible tragedy involving the title character on his birthday. Several months later, he gets together with several of his friends for a guy weekend away. Together, they alternate between dealing (or attempting to deal) with the elephant in the room and avoiding it entirely.
The diversity of personalities between the men, and the problems each of them is dealing with in his own life, makes them both relatable and likable. The humor — when it is there — is real and flows naturally. Based on the mumblecore pedigree of the filmmakers and certain of the actors, I half expected to hate his movie. I didn’t.