Summer is a popular season for comedies about friends traveling together. This month’s Joshy, gives the genre a different spin by focusing on the hijinks of a mismatched group of friends as they celebrate their friend Josh’s (Thomas Middleditch) bachelor party as a way to grieve the loss of his relationship. Months after Josh’s fiancee ends her own life, the group realizes that they cannot get the deposit back from the house they booked for a bachelors’ weekend in Hawaii. So, Ari (Adam Pally), Adam (Alex Ross Perry), Eric (Nick Kroll), and Josh head on what is supposed to be a wild boys’ trip. They are joined by Jodi (Jenny Slate), a woman in town with her girlfriends to celebrate her thirtieth birthday, and Greg (Brett Gleman), a wild friend of Eric’s who keeps the party rolling. Quickly, however, the weekend gets derailed by the emotional baggage each of the friends has brought with them. As Ari deals with his dissatisfaction with his marriage and Adam copes with the sudden end of his decade-long relationship, they both tiptoe around their feelings in the wake of Josh’s much grander grief.
Joshy seems stuck somewhere between The Hangover and The Big Chill. It has the trappings of a raunchy buddy comedy, but is at its best when it focuses on the absurdities of how people cope with heavy feelings rather than on the drugs or sex-related humor. Its characters fall on different points of a spectrum between twenty-somethings you might have known and sitcom versions of burnouts and nerds. Because of this discordance between its various parts, Joshy does not really find its groove until late in the film, but I found the understated rawness with which it approached grief refreshing for the genre. The scene at the end when Adam finally gets everyone to play his board game is worth the wait as well. Joshy is pretty rough around the edges and could have focused more on the interesting feelings that motivate the characters rather than on the tropes of its genre, but it was worth watching and fun to see unfold. 3/5 stars.
Joshy was written and directed by Jeff Baena. It runs 93 minutes and is rated R for drug use, language, nudity, sexuality, a disturbing image, and general raunchiness. It is in theaters and simultaneously released on iTunes and Amazon Prime.
Those who enjoyed watching the success of Olympians such as Simone Biles, might be interested in The Fits, a slow-burning examination of adolescence and the pressure to fit in, that follows Toni (Royalty Hightower), a girl from Cincinnati, who floats between the boxers who work out with her brother at the community gym and the dance team who practices in the studio above them. As Toni starts to fit in with the girls on the dance team, finding a new way to move her strong boxer’s body and opening up more to new friends, girls on the team start to experience convulsive fits. Stories of girls having contagious fainting spells go at least as far back as Salem. Unlike other versions of this trope, however, The Fits focuses less on the cause of the spells, and instead dwells on the impact they have on the community of girls, sometimes serving as a boundary between the older girls and the younger ones, and other times representing the desire to fit in.
The film beautifully depicts the silliness and tenderness of childhood friendships, as well as the painful awkwardness of coming of age. It is visually stunning and uses austere urban settings to accentuate the movement and the youth of its characters. Perhaps most remarkable, however, is the way the film develops the characters without relying on stereotypes about race or gender. In doing so, it gets more to the heart of the decision Toni struggles to make between the boxing community she is used to and the dance team, which seems less inviting and more dangerous after the fits begin.
The Fits is unique, gorgeous, and compelling, and features outstanding performances from a cast of young actors. 4.5/5 stars.
The Fits was written by Saela Davis, Lisa Kjerulff, and Anna Rose Holmer, who directed. It runs 72 minutes. It is available on iTunes and Amazon Prime.
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