Joshy

Amidst the superhero blockbusters and animated hits dominating the summer box office, the indie dark comedy Joshy quietly hit select theaters this past weekend. From the trailer, it’s difficult to tell what the film is about beyond a bachelor party for the formerly engaged titular character and, like its release, is a bit surprising, to say the least.

A mismatched group ends up in Ojai on the weekend in question: Ari (Adam Pally), the family guy; Adam (Alex Ross Perry) the geek; and Eric (Nick Kroll), the bro. Josh (Thomas Middleditch) himself is a bit of a hybrid, though he at first seems very interested in making the trip a low-key one by agreeing to Adam’s request that they all play a particular complicated board game to pass the time. Ari and Eric are more interested in partying (the latter moreso), and they convince the others to patronize the local watering hole, where they meet up with Eric’s friend, Greg (Brett Gelman) — who ushers in days of debauchery.

The bar is also where they encounter Jodi (Jenny Slate), who turns out to be an old camp friend of Ari’s. The chemistry between Pally and Slate is a bit too strong at times, but believable nonetheless. Ari is married, so the will-they, won’t-they is a bit sour, and despite clearly being “the nice guy,” it’s hard to determine why the audience should root for him, especially with a wife (whom he never calls) and baby at home.

While drug and alcohol use may be common at most guy’s weekends, this one is not ordinary, and the audience is shown the very real consequences of a group of men who are coming a bit unhinged. All pushed beyond their comfort zones in one way or another, the group ends their trip happily, though not after learning at least a few lessons.

As with most mumblecore-style movies, the film is a character study, with the audience desperately trying to determine what (if anything) is being said by each interaction. Director Jeff Baena’s previous work, Life After Beth, achieved more in concept than execution, but without the intriguing premise, his sophomore film came out feeling more like a Joe Swanberg production. (The Drinking Buddies director actually makes a cameo in Joshy, along with his wife Kris and their son.)

As a reviewer, it feels important to sum up what I feel a film is saying, even when it appears to fall flat on a number of fronts. What I came away with from the movie was a fairly simple notion: We’re all dealing with demons in one form or another, and we all have different ways of handling them. While the point is subtle, it’s relatable to all, regardless of which of the aforementioned character molds best fits you. Though the film wasn’t groundbreaking, it was a gentle reminder to appreciate those around you, and to try and understand what your friends going through.