Movie Review: The Joshua Tapes

So it's been a while since I wrote anything here. I'd like to say I'm going to start updating regularly again, but my Mom taught me not to lie. So I'm not. However, I thought I'd break this lazy streak with a little somethin' somethin' from the local indie film scene. The Joshua Tapes was shot two years ago in 2008 but is only getting limited distribution this year. I don't really know why (maybe I should have asked during the Q&A session =/) but I think it was worth the wait. And I'd say this movie is worth your Ringgit.

The best thing about going into this movie was that I had zero knowledge on the film. I didn't see many posters/banners, I did not watch the trailer, knew nothing about the plot - all working to my benefit. I went into the cinema with a completely open mind, judgment-free, which was refreshing considering all the Hollywood marketing crap that gets flung our way before the movie even opens.

The Joshua Tapes is about three buddies coming together, after growing apart for some time, to go on a road trip to the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Heightened emotions, flashbacks and hilarity ensue.

I really did not like the beginning of the movie. The whole shaky cam thing just put me off straight away. My first thoughts were "Is the entire film going to be like this?". It works fine later on as flashbacks but I thought the start would have been better if it was present day. In fact, I liked the first act of the film the least. The build up to the road trip took a little too long, the lines were starting to get on my nerves a little, especially from Ajeet. To be honest, Ajeet annoyed me all throughout the movie.

The film picked up in the second and third acts and got way better. Just not Ajeet. I didn't really get his character. What I thought was that he was the troubled soul - angry, bitter, suicidal. Sure there were hints of those in the character, but bitchy stood out the most. Ajeet could have been played by a girl and it wouldn't have made a difference. It felt as if I should have sympathized with Ajeet, but instead I was so annoyed by his character and at one point wish the other two had kicked him out of the car. At least then Ryan and Reza would have had more time to talk about their problems.

I really enjoyed how the flashbacks sort of acted as the antagonist in this movie, bringing up dirty secrets and problems. The only thing was that these problems and secrets are never really brought up, discussed and resolved in the present day parts of the film. It did leave me wanting more, which is a good thing.

All the stuff I wish were different in the movie aside, I really did enjoy this movie. The humor, when it did pop up, was incredibly hilarious and I found myself laughing more than I thought I would. Putting the bitchiness of Ajeet aside, I enjoyed the car scenes, the back and forths between Reza and Ajeet, the crazy emotions, the sarcasm and even the awkward silences. The thing I loved the most about this film was the dialogue and how it was presented and brought through. I could relate to so many things that were said in this movie, not by what was said, but by how it was said. Everything felt so natural and just right. Maybe because it was all so Malaysian.

I had such mixed feelings about the ending it hurt me so bad. After such a roller coaster ride of a movie, there was a sense of calm and serenity in the ending. On the flip side, there was an exorbitant amount of unanswered questions, unrevealed secrets and unresolved problems. That was quite unsatisfying for me, just because I expected so much more from the movie.

Instead of seeing this as a shortcoming, I see it as room to grow into and potential. There were endless possibilities with this movie and big ups to the writers of the movie. I hope The Joshua Tapes is a sign of more to come from the local indie film scene.

The Joshua Tapes open in three cinemas - GSC Mid Valley, One Utama and Pavilion on September 30 and will be showing for two weeks only. Shake up your movie-watching routine and go catch this local production. You might love it, you might hate it. But what the hell.

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