A raucous boys weekend away in Ojai is underlined with tragedy in Jeff Baena's "Joshy." Reeling from the shocking death of his fiancee, and with a rental house deposit on the line, Joshy (Thomas Middleditch) and friends Ari (Adam Pally), Adam (Alex Ross Perry) and Eric (Nick Kroll) rally for the sake of what would have been his bachelor party. It's a weekend of jocular good times and bonding over boys-only bad behavior, with Joshy's unspoken trauma looming like a dark cloud.
Baena and the actors worked in an improvisational style with only a written treatment for the outline of scenes, but the film never feels unfocused or messy (propelled by Devendra Banhart's thrumming score). They're some of the best improvisers in the game, mingling with the various party hangers-on they collect along the way, including Brett Gelman, Jenny Slate, Aubrey Plaza and Lauren Weedman.
While Joshy's marital plans lie crushed underfoot, "Joshy," the film, exhibits plenty of anxiety about the institution of marriage itself. The mystical land of this Ojai cabin offers a world outside of the constraints of long-term relationships. This is no place for domestic commitment, which is quickly made clear to pal Aaron (Joe Swanberg), who swiftly departs with his wife and child after he sees that this is the kind of weekend that involves drugs, BB guns and other women.
There's a loose and easy, if slightly juvenile, charm to "Joshy," but you wish that the emotional catharsis lying in wait would appear sooner, with more resonance. The darkness of Joshy's situation demands it. But, ultimately, it's a fascinating depiction of the way men do — or don't — confront life's tragedies and traumas.
MPAA rating: R, for drug use and language throughout, sexual content/nudity and a disturbing image
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica; Vintage Los Feliz 3, Los Feliz