Jenny Slate and Adam Pally in Joshy (Lionsgate Premiere)

Jenny Slate and Adam Pally in Joshy (Lionsgate Premiere)

Grief is terrifying, messy, and inescapable for Josh (Thomas Middleditch), a nebbishy young man trying to move past his fiancée’s death. He tries to manage his sorrow in a number of ways, including ignoring it, plastering it over with drugs, and facing it head-on, but none of them are emotionally fulfilling—either for him or for the film. However, the cast is chock-full of comedy royalty (Nick Kroll and Brett Gelman, to name a few), and their antics ensure that plenty of fun is had along the way.

Following the sudden suicide of Rachel (Alison Brie), Josh is left in a lurch with regards to their wedding plans. He listlessly decides to go on with his bachelor’s party, inviting a number of his friends to a house in Ojai, California, for some male bonding. For better or worse, they all wordlessly agree to ignore the tragedy and fill the weekend with frenetic debauchery. However, their drug-fueled attempts at levity often fall flat, as Josh’s sadness proves difficult to ignore. Furthermore, reality has a way of encroaching. Rachel’s mourning parents intrude on the party in one of the more gut-wrenching scenes. They refuse to believe that their daughter would take her own life.

While “Joshy” drowns his grief in hot tubs and whiskey, his friends end up going through trials of their own. Adam (Alex Ross Perry), a meek man on some sort of spectrum, is constantly on the phone with his unsatisfied girlfriend of 10 years. Another subplot, a stilted romance between Ari (Adam Pally) and Jodi (Jenny Slate), is so heartfelt and nuanced that it threatens to steal the show from the coke-snorting bros. Slate, in particular, has an awkward charm that grounds the ensemble’s screwball shenanigans.

While director/writer Jeff Baena reveals a sharp eye for the idiosyncrasies of bro-bonding, the film doesn’t make up its mind about the worth of all this debauchery. In some scenes, it’s a scathing indictment, as when the group’s binge drinking consigns Josh to a depressed stupor. He has a monologue about what he’s lost while his friends persevere, shooting each other in the dick with a BB gun. But by the end, everyone seems closer to each other and more at peace, without any solid grounding for that resolution. It may just be that the movie would be too dour otherwise.

The film is a bit of a mess, with conflicting impulses and scattered plotlines that never really come together. But to be fair, that’s a pretty accurate depiction of grief. There’s no easy healing to be found, no one monologue or drug trip that will make everything better. All you can do is gather those closest to you and hope for the best.

Written & Directed by Jeff Baena
Produced by Elizabeth Destro, Adam Pally, and Michael Zaken
Released by Lionsgate Premiere
USA. 93 min. Rated R
With Thomas Middleditch, Adam Pally, Alex Ross Perry, Nick Kroll, Brett Gelman, Lauren Graham, Jenny Slate, Aubrey Plaza, Joe Swanberg, and Alison Brie