Joy (2015)

14 Dec

The Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence duo are at it again with the appropriately-titled Joy, the latest from dramedy favorite David O Russell.  Following the true story of Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence), the Long Island entrepreneur and inventor of the self-wringing “Miracle Mop”, the film tells Joy’s story from childhood through the eyes of her grandmother (Diane Ladd). Through a series of flashbacks and flashforwards, we learn about Joy’s struggle to live up to her grandmother’s idealistic matriarchal expectations of self-reliance in the heavily patriarchal world of entrepreneurship. We follow Joy as she falls in love, has children, divorces, and comes to terms with the responsibilities and stress of single parenting and domestic life. In one of the most outwardly cinematic feminist statements of the year, Joy pits our titular character against a series of men – an apathetic ex husband (Edgar Ramirez), a distant father (Robert DeNiro), and a new business partner (Bradley Cooper), all whom – despite their goodnatured intentions – prove to be obstacles preventing Joy from sharing her invention with the world.

Always one for writing characters first rather than heavily-plotted stories, O Russell starts things off fairly quickly by giving us a rushed introduction into who’s who in Joy’s unique family. There’s her caring grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), and her TV-loving daughter Terry (Virginia Madsen) who’s married to a shop owner Rudy (DeNiro), who’s daughter from another marriage, Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm), is also in the picture. It’s a lot to take in during the first scene, but Russell’s characters deliver their snappy dialogue to us so effortlessly and convincingly that we get a real sense of how this personable but ultimately dysfunctional family operates. Unfortunately, the frantic energy of the first act dissolves by the film’s midpoint, where Joy reaches out to successful retail tycoon Neil (Bradley Cooper) for a helping hand. From this point on, Joy mostly turns into a standard underdog-overcoming-adversity piece that’s high on conventional dramatic tropes but low on Russell’s signature wit and humor.

Performance wise, there is nothing in Joy we haven’t really seen before. Jennifer Lawrence does a solid job and the leading lady, giving just enough nuances to show that her character is a real person and not some inhuman superwoman, but her interactions with the others seem distant and forced. Cooper’s character is easily the least developed, with none of the enjoyable quirks that made him so fun to watch in Russell’s previous works American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook.  

Fortunately, the script never goes into cringeworthy territory (remember I Heart Huckabees?), but it never ends up fully redeeming itself by the film’s close. The most frustrating thing about Joy is that it doesn’t feel nearly as inspired as it ought to be; by keeping things safe and accessible, David O Russell seems to drift slightly away from his typically rich and complex knack for storytelling.

Bottom Line: By toning down his distinctive dark humor, Joy gives us a conventional but still entertaining Cinderella story that feels robbed of reaching its greater, more complicated potential.  

Rating: 6/10 

Film Recipie: The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) + The Fighter (2010) + Erin Brockovich (2000)

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  1. Finding the ‘Joy’ in Jennifer Lawrence’s new movie - RiyadhVision - December 26, 2015

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  2. Leo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Lady Gaga win Golden Globes - RiyadhVision - January 11, 2016

    […] Joy (2015) […]

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