Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 9, 2016)
Best known as the lead on HBO’s Silicon Valley, Thomas Middleditch jumps to movies with 2016’s Joshy. Josh (Middleditch) plans to marry Rachel (Alison Brie), but this relationship ends in an abrupt – and permanent – manner when Rachel kills herself.
Four months later, Josh confronts the time period that should’ve encompassed his bachelor party. To stave off depression, his pals take him on the weekend extravaganza anyway, which leads to partying and attempts at emotional healing.
Call it déjà vu, but didn’t I just watch a Middleditch movie in which hijinks followed the end of his character’s wedding plans? Yes, I did, as Search Party places Middleditch in semi-similar circumstances. Heck, we even get Adam Pally as one of the Middleditch role’s buddies in both.
That said, the two films don’t enjoy truly analogous plots, as they take off onto different paths. Search Party feels more like The Hangover with a splash of The Graduate.
Joshy goes for a less slapstick/broad comedy vibe, as it takes on more of a quirky “indie” feel. Whether or not that comes as a good thing depends on the viewer’s POV, but I appreciate it, as I’m not wild about the “potty humor” of Search Party.
Though this puts Joshy more in my wheelhouse, I can’t claim that it does a lot to explore its themes or roles. While the film launches from a dark place, it fails to dig into the aftermath especially well, as it prefers to focus on off-kilter stabs at character portraits to the exclusion of anything else.
Much of Joshy came from cast improvisation based on a scripted outline, and this loose framework shows. Films like that can succeed – This Is Spinal Tap remains king of that construct – but the technique flops in the meandering, aimless Joshy.
The movie includes a good cast, but they don’t take advantage of the improv framework, and director Jeff Baena can’t corral all the different elements into anything vaguely coherent. We find ourselves stuck with loosely connected character bits that lack real depth, humor or entertainment value.
Because it lacks much of an actual narrative, one could argue that Joshy comes with a greater sense of realism than the average film, but it also saddles the viewer with a lot of contrived drama. It’s bad enough that Josh ended up single due to tragedy, but the film also gives us other characters going through Significant Life Events. These elements feel forced and artificial.
The movie’s biggest problem remains its lack of drive or character investment, though, as well as its rampant self-indulgence. Joshy ambles through its 93 minutes with little focus or reason for the viewer to care about its events. Add in a lack of amusement or emotion and Joshy becomes more of a failed experiment than an actual movie.