Joy Movie Review & Film Summary

Throughout cinema’s history, there have been numerous director/actor collaborations, and when these collaborative efforts are truly symbiotic, we get some of the most memorable films and performances. Whether it is Alfred Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, or Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, these types of director/actor pairs have made some of the most iconic films of the last century. Now, it appears that we have another director/actor collaboration in the making. While it is way too early to even mention this new pair in the same sentence as the examples above, it feels like this new cinematic relationship can develop into something exciting and unforgettable.

Jennifer Lawrence in JOY

Jennifer Lawrence in JOY

This new pair is of course writer and director David O. Russell and America’s favorite star Jennifer Lawrence. They have made two films already, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, and their third effort is opening up on Christmas day. Joy is based on the life of Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence)- the woman that invented the miracle mop. The film takes us on a wild journey inside Joy’s personal life as we watch Joy grow from a young, imaginative child into a strong woman who becomes the matriarch of her own business.

Joy is not your typical biopic nor was it intended to be. Ever since David O Russell signed on to write and direct the project taking over creative responsibility from writer Annie Mumolo- he made sure his style and creativeness were strongly felt. Joy is not a documentary like approach to telling one woman’s life; instead, Russell injected his unique spin on it in order to make it more memorable and enjoyable. Unfortunately, this style is only felt in the first half of the movie and somehow gets abandoned and put on the back burner as the film progresses. This makes Joy become a mixed bag full of heart, amusement, oddity, and ultimately slight disappointment. The film feels like it is uncertain and uneven in its approach and setup. The first half of the movie is classic David O. Russell. The soundtrack is bolstering with hits from the past and Russell’s quirky family scenes ring with a sense of purpose. We are introduced to the Mangano family, and we are treated to absurdity and a fantasy like atmosphere. In this half, we meet Joy as a young child and then see her as a young adult trying to support and put up with her entire family. This is when the film is at its most charming, funny, and overall best. As the movie progresses, it relies on reality to tell the remaining of Joy’s story. When we see Joy create her miracle mop and eventually become this successful businesswoman and the face of QVC, the film turns into more of a standard biopic. Russell drops the fantasy-like approach and loses his assertiveness, and the film becomes rushed and less successful.

Although the film never finds the right balance and falters in the second half, there is one constant- Jennifer Lawrence. She never losses her way and gives a performance that is heartfelt and fascinating. She slips into the ‘everyday woman’ role with ease and grace creating a character that is easy to like and root for. As Joy, Lawrence provides her typical tenacity and emotional vulnerability. It might not be here best performance, but it still is a great reminder that at only 25 years old Jennifer Lawrence can do a lot of great things, and David O. Russell has found a way to constantly get the best out of her. Joy is truly the only character and performance worth remembering; although, Virginia Madsen gives a funny and beautifully odd performance as Joy’s mother. As for the other players, they don’t have really time to develop their characters. Robert De Niro gives a fine performance, but his character, the overbearing father, is one note and comes off cartoonish. Edgar Ramirez and Bradley Cooper, playing Lawrence’s ex-husband and business ally respectively- are not quite in it long enough to really make an impact on the film. Russell is at his best when he has multiple well-developed characters coming together, and this film simply lacks this rich quality.

When looking back at Russell and Lawrence’s pairing, it is easy to fond over her Oscar-winning performance in Silver Linings Playbook and/or her scene-stealing performance in American Hustle. Those movies, especially Silver Linings Playbook, find both of them at their absolute best. While Joy is no dud or a complete misfire, it still is their least successful and engaging picture together. However, this shouldn’t stop this duo from continuing to take risks and projects together.

The cast includes: Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), Robert De Niro (The Intern), Virginia Madsen (The Number 23), Edgar Ramirez (Point Break), and Bradley Cooper (Burnt). It was written and directed by David O. Russell (American Hustle).

3 Stars

-By Louie Coruzzolo

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