Directed by Eric England (Contracted 2013, Get The Girl 2017), Josie stars Sophie Turner (Game Of Thrones series, X-Men: Apocalypse 2016) and Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story series, The Practice series) as a teen girl and isolated man who forge a connection that draws eyes around town, a fact not helped by the fact that both of these people have secrets they would rather not share.
Set for release in theaters and On Demand as of Friday, March 16, 2018, through Screen Media Films, Josie is most cinematically interesting in two ways: as a study of how much talented writers can wring from a relatively narrow set of circumstances, and as a reversal of much of what we come to expect. Fittingly, it’s also handicapped by its predilection for reversal, losing sight of its main objective at a crucial moment of the film and letting its tender balance of character and plot begin to lean just slightly askew in a manner that will work to different levels for different audiences.
The tension between character and plot is an age-old one, and does not apply to just film. It goes back to the central question at the heart of both producing a piece of art and receiving a piece of art – what is it that makes this worthwhile to an audience? Audiences are drawn to flashy contortions of plot because it is the spark that defines a film’s potential interest; what is happening, what is wrong? But without strong characters the audience can relate to, the plot means nothing – so what is the audience looking for, an examination of people or an observation of what happens to them in interesting scenarios?
The answer is usually, “A little bit from column A and a little bit from column B.” That is a balance that Josie strives to find and maintain for the majority of its runtime, but the truth is this is mostly not a particularly plot-heavy film. Instead, it is a character-heavy film and it is all the stronger for it; Josie is a film that finds most of its narrative juice in starkly defining a limited set of characters, then simply throwing them together and seeing what happens. What happens is at times predictable and at times unpredictable, but the film manages to feel authentic, lived-in and engrossing throughout.
Unfortunately, some of it is later plot machinations do not pay this off. There is a turn towards the end that is easily justified by narrative necessity, but feels like a twist that does not feel true to the messy, intrinsically human story that is being told in every moment leading up to it. What was previously interesting, specifically because it was messy (and thus the audience feels like a back seat observer to something very human and real), in a moment becomes entirely too neat and conveniently written. Some will argue that it is wrapped up entirely too quickly, but this is an issue that’s more of a symptom than the disease itself – it feels like the writer realized this was the least interesting part of the film, and accorded it precisely the amount of space it deserves.
Of course, a character-centric Drama is rendered immediately inert if those characters are not well-served by their actors. Thankfully, the cast does an admirable job all around – in fact, Turner hooks into parts of her that have not really been seen on camera before, shaking off the uptight and rigid Sansa Stark and really relaxing into something more more fluid. Unfortunately, her accent occasionally falters in a way that is just a little too noticeable, but she does an impressive job otherwise.
Furthermore, Kurt Fuller has a strong presence throughout the film as well, stealing every scene he is in by giving his character more nuance and shading than would otherwise be accorded by other actors. It helps underscore the believability that keeps the whole production together and the film is all the richer for it.
Many viewers may even enjoy the turns of Josie’s plot, and there is no doubting the excellence of its production. For all this, CrypticRock give this film 4 out of 5 stars.