There is, on the off set, nothing that separates Joshy from the many other films of it’s ilk that have come out in recent years. A group of friends travel and spend a weekend in a cabin in the woods, usually to help a friend get a way from a tough situation. Things get heated in the confined spaces, there’s an outburst, people make up and drive off in their nice cars having learned a lesson on how to be a better friend. About Alex did an alright job with this conceit while The Intervention stumbled as much as it achieved what it was ultimately trying to do and Joshy would have succeeded had it felt comfortable enough it its own skin to play out without a third act twist that ultimately derails everything that has been set up.
Josh (Thomas Middleditch) recently went through a traumatic experience in the death of his fiance and now, four months later, isn’t able to get the deposit back on the house he’d rented for his bachelor party. Wanting to make the most of it he invites his friends for the weekend including Ari (Adam Pally) who is dissatisfied in his home life, the neurotic Adam (Alex Ross Perry-a scene stealer), the perpetually positive Eric (Nick Kroll) and the wild card friend Eric brings along, Greg (Bret Gelman). Throughout the film truths are revealed and character traits brought to the surface as some soul searching goes down within the party. None of this is new. None of it. I have seen this type of storytelling many times throughout the last few years, About Alex and this weeks The Intervention being prime and timely examples. Joshy is a relaxing film that never feels the need or want to ask too much of its viewer, instead rather happy to simply take them along for the ride.
The nuance found in the film isn’t with the overlaying story-line but with the smaller character interactions. Adams discussion with the hot tub repairman, a fine Jake Johnson cameo, showcases a character who simply needs someone to talk to while the rest of his friends rally around Josh. Ari connecting with Jenny Slates character demonstrates someone who isn’t so dishonorable to cheat on his wife but someone who is clearly looking for an out who is unhappy in his marriage. And then, in one of the most telling sequences in the entire film, there’s Eric wiping away his own tears while watching a friends emotional distress, after being labeled the “party guy” for such a length of the film. He has empathy and he adores his friend and that’s why he’s trying to take Josh’s mind off of what happened to him, not for his own selfish need.
It’s these little moments that allow for Joshy to not end up stale.
The added bonus-beyond Kroll being a stand out-is the natural chemistry between Slate and Pally, both of whom get to play in their own little Before Sunrise world for another as the two strike up a bond on a late night stroll. Slate has a shocking amount of charm and her screen presence is delightful. Effortlessly charismatic and able to bring the right amount of pathos at the drop of a hat, Slate is an actress I’m thrilled to see pop up in just about anything. Give her all the roles!
Heavily improved, director Jeff Baena doesn’t have to do much behind the camera to deliver an engaging film with the performers he’s brought on and, unfortunately, he doesn’t. The films pallet is bland with the main life force being the talent onscreen. That coupled with a third act “twist” that is so convoluted it nearly takes one out of the film is burdensome to the overall quality. It’s not a bad way to spend a lazy afternoon, but it’s also a film that will likely have a short shelf life in your memory.
Watch for the performers. They’re worth it.