×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sundance Film Review: ‘Joshy’

Writer-director Jeff Baena's second feature hangs loose at a weekend-long bachelor party.

With:
Thomas Middleditch, Adam Pally, Alex Ross Perry, Nick Kroll, Brett Gelman, Jenny Slate, Lauren Graham, Aubrey Plaza, Lauren Weedman, Paul Reiser, Lisa Edelstein, Alison Brie, Joe Swanberg, Kris Swanberg, Jude Swanberg, Jake Johnson, Frankie Shaw, Jessica Varley, Paul Weitz.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4661798/

One of the saddest comedies ever made about boys behaving badly at a bachelor party, “Joshy” offers a strange mix of elements that never quite add up. Boasting a hodgepodge of strong comic voices riffing their way through underdeveloped characters, writer-director Jeff Baena’s second feature after the under-appreciated zombie romantic comedy “Life After Beth” is an altogether looser affair, but rarely to its benefit. The name cast guarantees ancillary interest, though theatrical life should be even briefer than “Beth’s.”

It’s certainly unusual to begin your comedy with a suicide, but that’s what happens when the nondescript title character (played by “Silicon Valley’s” charming Thomas Middleditch) comes home to discover his fiancee, Rachel (Alison Brie), has hung herself. On his birthday, no less. After that unsettling opening, the film quickly shifts focus to Josh’s pot-smoking buddy Ari (Adam Pally), the married father of a newborn baby who dominates the early going.

Ari discovers that the deposit he put down on a house in Ojai for Josh’s bachelor party is non-refundable, and so four months after the tragic event that no one wants to bring up, Josh, Ari, nerdy Adam (Alex Ross Perry) and raunchy Eric (Nick Kroll) converge in Ojai for a wild weekend. They’re soon joined by Eric’s partner-in-crime Greg (Brett Gelman) and occasionally by Jodi (Jenny Slate), the free-spirited woman who Ari picks up in a local bar.

Booze, pot and cocaine flow plentifully as the gang lounges around, soaking in hot tubs and playing an assortment of games — though they do their best to avoid the “Dungeons & Dragons”-style role-playing game that Adam brought to share. The slender plot makes “Joshy” essentially just a hangout movie, made sporadically enjoyable by the largely improvised dialogue of the cast. If there’s an unofficial competition among the ensemble, Kroll scores the most direct laughs, while indie filmmaker Perry steals the most scenes.

It never makes much sense that Jodi would agree to hang with this particular group of guys, but Slate injects a much-needed female energy that helps distract from the nonsensical romance she engages in with Ari. Aubrey Plaza and Lauren Weedman are similarly welcome in small roles as an angry paramour of Adam’s and an easygoing escort, respectively, while the entire Swanberg filmmaking family — Joe, Kris and toddler Jude — drop in and out halfway through for reasons unknown. The film hits its peak of inexplicable happenings when Rachel’s parents (Paul Reiser and Lisa Edelstein) show up at the house to accuse Josh of murdering their daughter and in the process unlock his bottled-up emotions.

Shot on a shoestring over a two-week period, “Joshy” has the feel of an experiment that Baena needed to get out of his system after the far more ambitious “Life After Beth,” but time will tell which direction his career takes. Tech credits are modest, highlighted by a rare original score from indie folk artist Devendra Banhart — though that coup is nearly lost among an over-abundance of licensed songs.

Popular on Variety

Sundance Film Review: 'Joshy'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 24, 2016. Running time: 93 MIN.

Production: A StarStream Media presentation of a Destro Films and American Zoetrope production in association with Bow and Arrow Entertainment. (International sales: WME, Los Angeles.) Produced by Adam Pally, Liz Destro, Michael Zakin. Executive producers, Charles Bonan, Kim Leadford, Daniel McCarney, Matthew Perniciaro, Michael Sherman. Co-­producers, Josh Bachove, Tracey Landon, Daniel McGilvray.

Crew: Directed, written by Jeff Baena. Camera (color, HD), Patrice Lucien Cochet; editor, Ryan Brown; music, Devendra Banhart; music supervisor, Chris Swanson; production designer, Almitra Corey; costume designer, Mollie Gate; sound, Amanda Beggs; supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, Erik Foreman; visual effects, Secret Weapon VFX; associate producers, Michael Ferraro, Sean Maurer, Sean Monahan, Peter Pietrangeli, Lauren Russell, Kindred Sparks; assistant director, Tracey Landon.

With: Thomas Middleditch, Adam Pally, Alex Ross Perry, Nick Kroll, Brett Gelman, Jenny Slate, Lauren Graham, Aubrey Plaza, Lauren Weedman, Paul Reiser, Lisa Edelstein, Alison Brie, Joe Swanberg, Kris Swanberg, Jude Swanberg, Jake Johnson, Frankie Shaw, Jessica Varley, Paul Weitz.

More Film

  • Garin Nugroho film "Memories of my

    Indonesia Selects Controversial 'Memories' as Oscar Contender

    “Memories of my Body” directed by Garin Nugroho has been selected to represent Indonesia at the Academy Awards in the best foreign-language film category. The announcement was made on Tuesday by actress Christine Hakim representing the Indonesian Film Selection Committee. The fact-based film depicts the story of a young man from a dance troupe that [...]

  • Benjamin Wallfisch - scoring session, Abbey

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch Signs With Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch has signed with the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency (GSA) for worldwide representation, in partnership with London-based agency COOL Music Ltd. A top composer, whose scoring credits include “It Chapter Two,” Shazam!” Hellboy,” “Hidden Figures” and “Hostile Planet,” among others, Wallfisch has worked on over 75 feature films and is a member of the BAFTA [...]

  • The Moneychanger

    Toronto Film Review: ‘The Moneychanger’

    Uruguayan auteur Federico Veiroj (“The Apostate,” “Belmonte”) broadens his usual intimate dramatic scope to diminishing returns for his fifth feature, “The Moneychanger,” . Adapted from a novella by compatriot Juan Enrique Gruber, the period (mid-1950s to mid-1970s) tale centers on the eponymous character, an amoral currency exchanger, who winds up laundering some of the dirtiest [...]

  • Send Me to the Clouds

    Film Review: ‘Send Me to the Clouds’

    The social and economic pressures felt by China’s “leftover women” — referring to those older than 26 and unmarried — are examined in “Send Me to the Clouds,” a rewarding dramedy about a 30-ish journalist seeking financial reward and sexual fulfillment after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Bold by mainland standards for presenting a positive [...]

  • Jamie Bell Without Remorse

    Jamie Bell Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jamie Bell is in final negotiations to join Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel “Without Remorse.” Stefano Sollima, who most recently helmed “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” is directing from a script by “Sicaro” screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. As previously announced, Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known [...]

  • Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter,

    'Downton Abbey' Movie Sequel? Producers Tease That They Have 'Some Ideas'

    “Downton Abbey” holds the record as the most-nominated international show at the Emmy Awards with 69 nominations and 15 wins — and now, it stands a chance to nab an Oscar. More than three years after the beloved series signed off the air following six critically-acclaimed seasons, “Downton Abbey” is making its big-screen debut. “It [...]

  • Todd Phillips Joaquin Phoenix Joker Movie

    What's Woker Than 'Joker'? Film Critics Made Everything Political at Fall Festivals

    “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks Joaquin Phoenix, playing a deranged incel version of the DC supervillain in “Joker,” the unconventional comic book movie that’s sucked up much of the air from the fall festival circuit. Like an aggro caricature of the “involuntary celibates” who troll message boards online, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content