Joshy  is the latest film from writer/director Jeff Baena who is probably better known for his comedy-horror directorial debut Life After Beth . After an abrupt change to his life, Josh (Thomas Middleditch) and his friends Ari (Adam Pally), Adam (Alex Ross Perry), Eric (Nick Kroll) and Greg (Brett Gelman) gather at a vacation home in Ojai, CA for a weekend away.
Shoestring Story… Joshy is ostensibly a hangout film. There’s a lot of talking—some amusing, some banal—and there’s a lot of dudes getting drunk and/or high and getting up to shenanigans. And yet, for all the time that viewers spend with these characters, the story and characters end up coming across thin. These characters never seem to amount to more than their broader tropes and it doesn’t ever feel like the audience gets to know them very well. Consequently, this leaves the denouement feeling abrupt and unearned. It is clear that Middleditch put effort into channeling the strong emotions that his character is supposed to experience in the final act of this film; and yet, though Middleditch has done great work as the slightly neurotic, slightly proud Silicon Valley character Richard Hendricks, his Josh didn’t register as a genuine, lived-in character, which leaves his emotional catharsis, unfortunately, flat.
Gentle Humour… As a drama/comedy, this film does have its moments of levity. Perhaps, the best comic relief is to be found in either Alex Ross Perry’s dorky and neurotic Adam or Nick Kroll’s fun-loving party animal Eric. Predictably, Adam and Eric—two very different kinds of men with different kinds of interests and motivations—will find that each of their ideas of fun doesn't quite mesh and this is a nice source of amicable tension. Though a select few characters seem to drop in and out of this film inexplicably, the main cast demonstrates good chemistry and complement one another. Overall, though, Perry’s Adam is definitely the MVP for without Adam, this film would be much duller.
Potatoes Without the Meat… In watching Joshy, it’s clear that thought has been put into the film. For instance, Baena doesn’t require dialogue exposition to convey that two characters are engaged, he simply shows a close-up of the woman’s engagement ring. In another instance, he makes a visual joke using a neon bar sign wherein the negative space left behind by a burned-out letter “G” leaves the sign reading “The Lone An us”. There are nice touches in this film; the characters and interactions are overall coherent; and, as far as hangout films go, there could be much worse. And yet, on all counts, there’s not quite enough to sink your teeth into; there’s not enough story to flesh out a dramatic arc; there’s not enough that the characters do to really develop their stories; there’s not enough humor to forget the characters don’t do much. But there is chemistry, and banter, and an immensely complex Dungeons and Dragons-style tabletop RPG where the villain is a Turtlesaurus. This film’s appeal is likely quite narrow; but, just as there’s a yin to every yang, a Peaches to every Herb, there ought to be viewers who will connect with Baena’s film.