Yes, “Joshy” is about a bachelor party. And yes, that bachelor party involves too much alcohol, and too many drugs, and a few strippers, and some gambling, and several unintended guests showing up at the bachelor party at just the wrong time, and even the requisite female temptation for a married man. And yet. Writer/director Jeff Baena’s “Joshy” resists the temptation to simply devolve into a raunchy, witless comedy we have seen so many times before. It contains all the aforementioned elements and threatens debauchery only to repeatedly refrain from dumbing itself into stupid sleaze. That is not to suggest that “Joshy” becomes a philosophical rumination, or anything close to it, but in its refusal to merely be either a bacchanal or a meditation it improbably finds a middle ground that speaks some truth even if it also allows for one glaring oversight.
Maybe this adherence to the genuine amidst so many potential land mines of lunacy can be traced to the fact that the bachelor party of “Joshy” is not a bachelor party. It is a bachelor party that was supposed to be a bachelor party. Joshy (Thomas Middleditch) intended to marry Rachel (Alison Brie) but that did not happen. And it did not happen because Joshy left Rachel or because Rachel left Joshy; it did not happen because Rachel committed suicide. This is not a Spoiler. This happens before the opening credits. And this casts a deliberate pall over the bachelor party that isn’t, a bachelor party that theoretically goes forward because the deposit they put down on a party pad in Ojai, California turns out to be non-refundable but that really goes forward because everyone attending wants to blow off some steam.
In a way, the title “Joshy” is something of a feint. Yes, this party is his, and everyone attending claims to be there on his behalf, but it rather readily becomes apparent how all the attendees have their own problems, most notably Ari (Adam Pally), who might be married and with a newborn baby but still finds himself in a sorta-fling with another Ojai vacationer, Jodi (Jenny Slate). Though this wreaks of the problematic Enlightenment By The Way Of Affair Baena never allows the subplot to yield to that temptation, stopping his characters short of going all the way, and letting real confusion and guilt emerge as the idea that this brief relationship will not solve anything intrinsically surfaces. That, however, is also why their concluding kiss feels like the subplot’s lone concession to the typical and really should have been cut.
Nobody’s issues, of course, are really addressed, not directly, as evinced by Joshy’s two seemingly happier married friends (Joe & Kris Swanberg) that turn up on Saturday morning with their kid in tow, demand why no one is actually addressing Joshy's real problems, become incensed when they realize all anyone wants to do is get drunk and high, and flee, never to be seen again. And this is where“Joshy” is spot-on. Even a broad, dumb movie like “The Hangover”, defended by those who like it as being inconsequential, wants its characters to reach some sort of ultimate truth, which rings false because the movie itself is too asinine to make that truth believable.“Joshy” is just a hangout movie, albeit a fairly entertaining one, where the hijinks are not meant to eventually engender a standard-issue epiphany.
That also speaks to the film’s significant flaw – the fiancé. Rachel is the character that triggers all the action yet we have no clear sense of who she was or why she did what she did. True, Rachel’s parents (Paul Reiser and Lisa Edelstein) turn up briefly to fight for their daughter’s memory, but their scene is played as comic absurdity as they accuse Joshy of killing Rachel. We know this isn’t true, but this confrontation is what pushes him to finally espouse a monologue about Rachel, one that concludes with him essentially dismissing her as unworthy of him anyway. It’s a massive copout.
In the end, Joshy is not ready to square with what she did and neither is “Joshy” itself.