Review: Joshy (Sundance)
PLOT: A man (Thomas Middleditch) reeling from the death of his fiancee uses what should have been his bachelor weekend as an opportunity for debauchery with a few of his friends (Adam Pally, Nick Kroll, Alex Ross Perry & Bret Gelman).
REVIEW: Jeff Beana’s follow-up to LIFE AFTER BETH, JOSHY marks a major departure in that it eschews the commercial ambitions of that movie in favor of a life-affirming comedy highly reminiscent of Joe Swanberg (who actually shows up with his wife and kid in tow for a cameo). If you didn’t like something like DIGGING FOR FIRE, JOSHY definitely isn’t for you in that it’s another movie about hip LA guys hanging out, doing blow, and trying to sort their lives out. But, it all winds up working (for the most part) thanks to the chemistry between the cast-mates.
The first scene is a rather harsh one, as Middleditch’s titular character returns from hitting the gym to find that his fiancée (Alison Brie) has inexplicably hung herself. Despite the severity of this, JOSHY opts for a light tone as it goes on, as the guys hang out and get into modest trouble. They are all familiar types but are cast to perfection. Kroll and Gelman play the wild party guys, while Pally is the sensitive married one who finds himself tempted by an appealing woman (Jenny Slate) that he meets at a bar. Alex Ross Perry - best known as the director of LISTEN UP PHILIP and QUEEN OF EARTH steals scenes as the geeky one, whose idea of fun has less to do with weed, booze, drugs and hookers and more to do with playing the complicated crowd-funded board-game he brought along for the weekend.
Granted, JOSHY is awfully familiar. The cool L.A industry-types movie is old hat by now and it feels like Beana just corral-ed a bunch of his friends together and got them to improv a bit. Yet, they’re all so likable that it works, with Kroll especially funny. His scene opposite family man Swanberg, who’s disgusted by all the drugs is really sharp. Jenny Slate is terrific too, and her burgeoning relationship with Pally feels authentic.
For about an hour of JOSHY, I was having a relatively good time watching all the guys goof around, but to me it only really got significantly good in the abbreviated final act when his former fiancée's parents (the dad is Paul Reiser) come to confront Joshy with their suspicions. It’s a serious turn that pays off well, with a cathartic end that kinda comes out of nowhere but really works.
Again, JOSHY is nothing new. It’s a modest exercise but it’s also a fun one. If you like movies like THE OVERNIGHT or DIGGING FOR FIRE this is well-worth checking out. There are a few solid laughs and a couple really sweet moments that make it a solid watch.