Josie‘s biggest sin—and there are many—is that it’s kind of dull. Not all the way boring or uninteresting, but the type of movie that lulls you to sleep. It’s an intentional decision by director Eric England, who is hoping to make the film emulate the feel of its small, sleepy, Southern town. And it wants to do that because then you’ll be so surprised by its final act twist that you’ll applaud it where applause isn’t actually earned. The film wants to pull one over on you by being so innocuous that you stop paying attention.
It’s about two people, really. The first is Hank (Dylan McDermott), who is a loner who looks after turtles and works as a guard at a high school—sitting in his truck, listening to country music, and looking out for troublemakers. He’s got a past and has moved to this town in hopes of avoiding it. Our second character is the eponymous Josie (Sophie Turner), who just moved into town. They both live at a sad motel complex. She winds up attending the high school at which he works.
They strike up something of a friendship. The neighbors look down on it; she’s a high school student and he’s a man in his 40s, and maybe there’s something untoward going on. Josie also befriends Marcus (Jack Kilmer), who causes lots of trouble for Hank. There isn’t much more to Josie until the ending, which I won’t spoil for obvious reasons. Much of it follows these people as they talk about nothing in particular while participating in activities that don’t even matter to them, let alone us.
It’s all designed to lull you into a false sense of security until the final twist occurs. If you’re paying attention, you won’t be surprised what happens. If you aren’t paying attention, and the film succeeds in disguising what it ultimately wants to do, then you may just feel cheated. When we’re actively not caring about what’s going on for over an hour, you can’t just flip the switch with a turn and hope to win us over at that point. And that’s not even mentioning how it feels preposterous in hindsight. Which it absolutely does. It might reframe previous actions but doesn’t put them in positive, purposeful, light.
The acting isn’t anything special, either—although it’s hard to note if that’s the actors’ faults or because of something else, like the screenplay which forces them to talk about turtles more than any other film in recent memory. Sophie Turner winds up being little more than something to look at as far as most of the characters—and the camera—are concerned, while Dylan McDermott has to act all stoic and not-creepy about their friendship, which is mishandled. It comes across as juvenile. Jack Kilmer’s slimeball is probably the most fun Josie has to offer.
Josie is a slow-paced movie that feels much longer than it is and has a dumb twist at the end that hopes to surprise us and make us care but instead has the opposite effect. It tries to lull us into a false sense of security before pulling the blanket off to reveal its true intentions, but by that point most people will have given up caring—and those who haven’t will see it coming from a mile away. While mimicking its sleepy small-town feel is atmospheric, it’s ultimately all for naught. It’s too bland and slight.
Conclusion: Josie is a slow-burn that isn’t worth the wait.
Recommendation: It’s hard to imagine Josie being worthwhile for anyone except massive fans of its actors.