Joy is the latest of three consecutive collaborations between director David O. Russell and actress Jennifer Lawrence, following Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Those films managed to display the type of grounded yet feisty charisma that made Lawrence an overnight sensation. Now, Lawrence & O. Russell (along with fellow Playbook and Hustle co-stars Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper) have reunited for Joy, in which Lawrence plays a more relatable down to earth role. Said role is of real life entrepreneur and single mother Joy Mangano, who created the Miracle Mop that revolutionized cleaning and helped build the channel QVC while struggling with her well meaning yet often suffocating family.
On its surface, Joy isn’t a story that would necessarily be worthy of cinematic adaptation. Yet, one would hope a filmmaker as visually unusual as David O. Russell and performers as eclectic as Lawrence, De Niro, Cooper, Virginia Madsen and Diane Ladd would sprinkle some depth into the proceedings. Unfortunately, Joy is often far too constricted by its rushed pace to get any sort of true depth across. Right from the start, Joy shows signs of being a massive miscalculation by having its narrator be Ladd’s grandmother character, one who we’re constantly told has a great impact on Joy‘s life, but never really shown to have much interaction with her beyond a few minor supporting words that show little kinship. All of these supporting characters have little to no purpose beyond their one dimensional quirks that either service or disservice Joy’s life, plodding her rise along without little to no time to express concrete individuality. It’s giving this spectacular supporting cast of folks like Robert De Niro, Isabella Rossellini and Bradley Cooper little to nothing to work with before moving along to the next step in Joy’s predictable success story.
Of course, Joy should focus on its titular character. After all, the story of a single mother struggling to find her place in the world could be quite emotionally uplifting and inspiring. Trouble is, that lack of engagement in her home life results in an incredibly droll exercise in wading through this plot rather than gleefully hoping to see this person rise, which no amount of ill fitting song choice or wacky transitional visual from David O. Russell can distract from. So many elements that have emotional potential are coldly cast aside by the film’s pace, including the behind the scenes peaks at QVC, the relationship between Joy & her family or even the crucial point of Joy’s past that motivates her to create the Miracle Mop. The only emotions that feel genuine come from the performance of Jennifer Lawrence, who gives the titular Joy far more relatable emotional turmoil and nuanced emotions than anything she’s really given to say or do. Her facial expressions alone have more to say than any repetitive quirk any of her family members have. It all results in a tired exercise of a star vehicle for Lawrence that makes me beg for the days when David O. Russell would create risky off kilter films like Three Kings instead of this safe predictable tripe with a few of his overused bells strewn on them.
Date Seen: 1/6/16
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 faulty QVC products