Josh (Justin Long) is a creative writing adjunct professor in a New York college. He’s only a little older than his students and seems the perfect tutor: generous, funny, engaging, enthusiastic, inspiring. Life is tricky for hot mess Josh with kvetching siblings, a dying grandmother in hospital, trouble with the rent and with his girlfriend. What’s especially tricky is at college he is that bogeyman of modern times; a straight white male amid oversensitive, flaky millennials. Poor Josh can do no right.
At one class he encourages a female student to elaborate on her short story. Based on a real event the ending is a copout. What really happened? The student elaborates, telling a crazy – and sexually explicit – anecdote. The class laughs good-naturedly. However, one student ‘feels uncomfortable’ and complains to Josh’s superiors. If he makes an apology for encouraging the incident things might heal. But poor misguided Josh doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. The offended student who has had her bubble wobbled is convinced of her own victimhood and is determined to be right even if it means wrecking someone else’s life. She needs to validate her feelings when she really needs to get over herself.
Universities, of course, have become toxic hotbeds of the woke agenda. As his students boycott his class, Josh has to navigate his mile-a-minute extended, Jewish family, including his aggravating, couch surfing sister (Kate Berlant) and the rancorous relationship between his divorced parents. The observations are acute (often achingly funny). The zeitgeist is dissected with scalpel precision and it’s all done so realistically it’s almost like a fly-on-the-wall documentary.
At the end of the movie one of the grandchildren reads a short history of granny’s life, of leaving Nazi Germany as a ten-year-old which rather puts the students’ microaggressions in perspective.
It’s a tale, partly, of Millennials versus Gen Xers; of not-so-blended families whose dynamics have been poisoned by the relentlessness of modern life. The emotions are raw yet the movie is genuinely, gloriously comic, real and moving. Everything’s handled just right by director Schechter, nothing is heavy-handed, the funny and sad parts of the story are in perfect balance. The ensemble playing is faultless too. The ideal antidote for Covid blues.
Available On-demand from Mon 7 Dec 2020