22 June 2024

Film Review – Josie (2018)

Whether a film is good or bad is mostly a matter of opinion, with performances, dialogue and directing choices all being at least partly subjective. Regardless of my overall thoughts on a film, one thing that I appreciate above all else is a film that tries. Some of my least favourite movies are those that just muddle along, ending up as generic or just plain ‘meh’. Josie definitely tries, and although it may not be anywhere near perfect, the movie gives its best shot.

The film follows Dylan McDermott as Hank, a quiet man keeping to himself in a small, Southern town until the titular Josie (Sophie Turner) arrives, bringing about a questionable relationship between the pair.

Outside of Game of Thrones, I haven’t been overly impressed with Sophie Turner’s performances so far, which is why I was so surprised at how great she was as Josie. Her performance here is subtle yet seductive, bouncing off of the other actors and perfectly capturing a rebellious teen whilst hinting at something more. The same can be said for Dylan McDermott, who portrays Hank as both a purposefully solitary figure with an underlying loneliness and desire for affection. Whenever the pair are on screen together, they create an unnerving chemistry that makes you both cringe and feel sorry for them.

Luckily a lot of the runtime is driven by the character interactions, cleverly setting up an interesting dynamic between the three main characters. Although the story does meander at times, there is enough intrigue throughout to keep you engaged, especially as the relationships become more unsettling.

One of the core storytelling mantras, that I imagine is taught in film schools across the globe, is to ‘show, don’t tell’. Unfortunately, Josie has a major exposition problem that isn’t help by a sloppily written script. Many scenes scattered throughout the film involve one character describing their backstory to another through often clunky dialogue, which isn’t a very effective way to deliver this information, especially when the pacing is quite slow already.

This exposition issue is no more evident than in the opening and closing narration, with the latter being entirely unnecessary and just bizarre in the context of the scene especially as everything being narrated playing out onscreen. Not only does it feel out of place, but the end sequence showcases the huge pacing problem, with the first 90% of the runtime being quite slow and character driven, and the last segment throwing everything at the wall before ending abruptly. It makes for a very disjointed viewing experience that left me slightly disoriented.

On top of all of this, the music was very jarring, not seeming to match the tone of any scene, and a random rattle sound would appear out of nowhere, for no apparent reason. I had a few issues with director Eric England’s decision to over-sexualise a lot of shots, again for no apparent reason. Yes, Sophie Turner’s character is seductive in nature, but a lot of the direction felt very uncomfortable and didn’t have a narrative purpose. One scene in particular had the camera tilt to where Josie was about to sit, except it took another 5-10 seconds before she actually sat, leaving a very unnecessarily long shot of Turner’s crotch onscreen.

Although it may sound like I hated Josie, I did actually find the story quite compelling despite its many faults. The performances intended and succeeded in making me uncomfortable whilst the narrative payoff, albeit rushed, was adequately satisfying. It may not be a masterpiece, or even a great film, but at least Josie tried and for that, I would recommend checking it out.

Josie is out on DVD and Video-on-Demand on 14th January 2019.

Jordan Duguid | ★★½

Drama, Thriller | 15 | US 2018 | 14 January 2019 | DVD, VOD | Dir. Eric England | Sophie Turner, Dylan McDermott

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