Joy Movie Review

Jennifer Lawrence has become writer/director David O. Russell’s favorite muse.  His last three films, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, AMERICAN HUSTLE and now JOY have all given the actress strong roles to play with Oscar nominations to boot (A win for SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK). JOY will surely give the girl on fire her fourth nomination as she portrays a true rags to riches story about a woman with nothing but a burdensome family and a hopeful dream. JOY follows her rocky rise to becoming a successful inventor and business woman.

Jennifer Lawrence in Joy

The cliche of the underdog is about as obvious as you can get without being titled ROCKY. However, these types of stories exist because they do happen. Jennifer Lawrence plays Joy Mangano, a mother of two who takes care of her shut in, soap opera obsessed mother (Virginia Madsen), her one true support system in her grandmother (Diane Ladd), and Joy’s hopelessly aspiring musician of an ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez). Now her selfish father (Robert De Niro) has been kicked out of his home and expects his daughter to house him as well.  Everything seems to be stacked against Joy who is the one true level headed person in this Arrested Development array of household characters.

Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper in Joy

Between her divorced parents, Rudy and Terry, her father’s wealthy girlfriend Trudy (Isabella Rossellini), and her jealous half sister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm), the stupidity and unwarranted guilt trips run rampant.  While everyone can relate to frustrating family members, Joy has it worse than most. Their annoyance, while at times humorous, lays on a bit too thick, keeping the audience at arms length.  While this might be a sad fact for Joy, as a viewer, I wanted more breaks from their abuse to better immerse myself into the story.

Jennifer Lawrence in Joy

Bringing the picture a much-needed change in energy, Bradley Cooper (along with De Niro is another O. Russell favorite) plays Neil, a home shopping network executive for QVC who gives Joy her first chance at big time sales. Director O. Russell seems to identify with the boost of energy, livening up the pacing and style. While the film could have benefited from more Cooper and Lawrence interaction, it still works on the simple notion of a win for the little guy…er girl.

Jennifer Lawrence is definitely a star and the main reason that the strength and growth in JOY works so well. While it might be flawed, Joy’s symbolic transition from holding the coffee mug to firing an automatic gun is an entertaining one. Similar to 2008’s FLASH OF GENIUS, JOY’s story of a small time inventor fighting the big bully is a David and Goliath theme that will always infuse inspiration. It may not be the end of the year award-winning film we’ve come to expect from a David O. Russell film, but JOY should be a satisfying experience for many film-goers.

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