David O. Russell delivers again with his raw realistic approach in his latest film, JOY. His three favorite actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Bradley Cooper; return with such triumph and repeated powerful performances we’ve come to expect. Following recent success with SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and AMERICAN HUSTLE, Russell has found a formula that seems to be working. JOY continues the reputation of being perhaps a little tough to watch for some, containing believable dialogue, and troubled characters in a dynamic that seems more true to real life. JOY, however, is able to bring so much more with a sense of hope and determination with a brighter, more inspirational story than the others.
While most are trying to overcome their Star Wars fandom hangover, and will surely be wanting to test out their new Hoverboards, the others will have to duke it out in a Christmas weekend box office brawl. While JOY comes in with plenty of star power and tested success with an A-list cast from two previous films, several other large movies will be competing for your business.
Christian Bale and Steve Carell’s indy THE BIG SHORT (with some help from Brad Pitt) is spreading to more theaters, Will Smith’s controversial film CONCUSSION, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlbergs comedy DADDY’S HOME, a POINT BREAK remake, alongside Leonardo’s campaign for an Oscar in THE REVENANT and Quentin Tarantino’s THE HATEFUL EIGHT are all coming out this week too! While the latter two both have better critic scores than JOY, I’m here to tell you that Russell’s latest film is far more deserving than the near rotten rating you may find elsewhere.
JOY is a loosely based on American entrepreneur and inventor Joy Mangano. While the screenplay follows the struggles that Joy, Jennifer Lawrence, faced through life to become the matriarch she has become, it’s truly an overly sensational story that probably bares only little resemblance to what really happened. This isn’t a bad thing, and that’s because the film never pretends to be a true story!
Instead, JOY is a slow build that focuses around Joys unforgiving, relentless, near nonsupporting life at home. There is plenty here that becomes perhaps obviously added for emotional effect, but I didn’t mind. It pulled the right cords and had me filled with… ahem… that one word that I refuse to use to not be overly cliche.
Jennifer Lawrence is once again the shining light and highlight of the cast. While she may have been the breakout performance in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, it was more a Bradley Cooper movie. AMERICAN HUSTLE saw only a tad of Lawrence, but boy was she was fantastic in it. Well, JOY sees a reverse screen time with a fair warning that you wont see Bradley Cooper until two thirds of the way in. STOP! This is not to spoiler you, but rather for you to enjoy the film more. I kept finding myself thinking, “Oh, this must be the part with Cooper comes in.”
It benefits from less screen time from Cooper and an added major player, Joy’s ex Tony, Edgar Ramirez. No one is tired of Mr. Bradley Cooper, but another story focuses between Cooper and Lawrence may have been too much. Cooper remains believable and as strong as ever, but his role may be smaller, it’s still vital.
The stories power comes again from the Lawrence and her onscreen father Robert De Niro along with another incredible supporting cast playing her family. The film starts right in the mixed of what appears to be another typical day in the life of Joy Mangano. What seems to be like a typical morning getting ready for work becomes a disaster of a comedy of events. It quickly becomes clear Joy has been putting up with what is the burden of her family.
Not only does she practically take care of her soap-loving, near bed-ridden hermit of a mother, but also her two children, Grandmother, and even provides living quarters for her ex-husband only to be dropped a bombshell of her father needing to crash there as well. Clearly this lends itself to some great comical antics, but also get to see some thick tension between her divorced parents and her sister that thinks as herself as more capable of success.
The beginning quickly begins to feel far too familiar to the high tension and squeamish scenes that Russel is known for shooting. An early fight reminds me of many of the loud and violent scenes from Cooper in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. However, as the movie takes quite awhile to gain its speed, once it gets going it REALLY gets going.
JOY is a movie with several acts of entirely different emotions with an added proper climatic build to bring a satisfying rewarding moment that one could find in the likes of THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. This film sparks motivation for anyone that still has any drive left in them. It’s the classic story of a small town girl trying to get out and make something of herself but always ends up farther from her dreams the more time goes by. Her failures and losses only drives her more to persevere past all of the challenges her family puts in front of her.
I could go into detail of the inventions and life Joy has, but I myself wasn’t savvy to her QVC and HSN history. I’ll leave this empty for any of those that may not know her life such as I, which helped this movie stay unbelievably intriguing and strong. It’s powerful acting and so uplifting that can it should give anyone a glimmer of hope.
JOY is not the best of David O. Russell’s portfolio, but it still remains as engaging as ever. It has a lot to live up to, but looking at it for what it is, it gets high remarks from me. My vagueness throughout this review was purposeful as I found my ignorance to the character helped the movies intrigue. The only way to understand would be to watch the movie. So I’ll leave you with this, if you’re a fan of this cast, Russell, or just not in the mood for the entirely differently line-up of movies coming out this Christmas, then JOY fits the bill.