JOY film review
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JOY film review

Joy  **1/2 out of 4 stars

starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, and Bradley Cooper

directed by David O. Russell


After three straight hits, being The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, you would think that wild director David O. Russell would hit another knockout with a film about Joy Mangano, a real-life female-business tycoon who invented the Miracle Mop. And being that it’s played by his MVP, the great Jennifer Lawrence, who got a Lead Actress Oscar for Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, and a supporting nomination for American Hustle. Me personally, I long for the earlier days of David O. Russell, when he made scrappy-gems like Spanking the Monkey, Three Kings, and I Heart Huckabees. And if his latest film, Joy, is a sign of anything, it’s that there’s no going back to those hay-days for this director. But he definitely hasn’t lost his experimental or manic edge.

In telling the story about the rise of Joy, who struggles for most of the film in trying to sell her soon to be famous mop, the result is an imbalanced, often hilarious, but somehow impersonal effort from Russell, with Jennifer Lawrence’s laid back, still riveting performance getting us over the film’s many rough spots. Once again, Russell’s focus is on a damaged family, most of the film being in Joy’s Italian-American household, where she practically takes care of all of them, including her Tom Jones wannabe ex-husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez). There’s her two young kids, along with her much looked-up to Mimi (a radiant Diane Ladd), her much deranged, soap-opera and bed ridden mother Terry (a looney and stellar Virginia Madsen, even in heavy makeup). And don’t forget her other business owning father Rudy, played by a angry and funny as hell Robert DeNiro, who is kicked out of his girlfriends house, and forced to share the basement with Tony. All while holding a crap job at the airport, Joy is a creative spirit caught in her family demises. When the idea of the mop comes to her on a wine-heavy family boat ride, Joy finally sees the way out. Later on, Joy gets a loan from her father’s new and loaded girlfriend, which becomes a big mistake after multiple fails to launch the product, the greed of some of her family members beginning to surface. It’s Neil Walker, played by a too brief and too forgetful Russell-regular Bradley Cooper, who puts Joy and her product on his live sales show for K-Mart, her honest approach on the show causing the numbers to skyrocket. But as other problems arise later, including Joy being forced to put a second mortgage on her house, Joy’s struggle rages on.

David O. Russell is usually skilled as fuck when it comes to spinning a web of this many characters. He struggles this time, however, as the character’s in Joy’s life become background noise after being so heavily featured in the film’s first half, in the wake of Joy finally breaking free of her self-doubt, and confronting a scam she later uncovers. Sure, she’s the tile of the movie, but in his last two family-centric films, Russell was able to include all of those supporting characters in telling a more compelling story about the lead ones. Luckily, Jennifer Lawrence still plays Joy’s rise to thrilling effect. But Russell seems unsure of what tone to set for his latest film, carrying different genre forms and feels throughout, at times lagging and backtracking. The result, is a straight-forward, and at most times unfelt Russell mixed bag. And once again, Jennifer Lawrence might seem too young for the role of Joy. But man, does she still kill it.



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