Thursday, January 7, 2016

Joy: Movie Review

Entertaining bio-pic of the human spirit - flaws and all.

Joy is the story of Joy Mangano – a literal rags-to-riches story of a broke, single mother of two who took the business world, and Home Shopping Network, by storm. And that type of story needs to be in the hands of frantic director David O. Russell and his actress collaborator Jennifer Lawrence. Two people, who arguably (tenuous argument) have lived that type of story and know how to bring it to the big screen with the ferocious comedic energy that it needs.   2015

Directed by: David O. Russell

Screenplay by: David O. Russell and Annie Mumolo

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper and Edgar Ramirez

David O. Russell has risen from quirky indies to some of Hollywood’s most acclaimed (critically and financially) awards-season box office magnets, and has done so while abusing his stars. Jennifer Lawrence’s rise, meanwhile, is much more simplistic. She’s a woman who went from Kentucky to being one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed and celebrated actresses. Her country girl done good arc also fits Joy’s simplistic arc. Joy doesn’t go through any dramatic transformation, she just fights her way from the bottom to the top.

Even if you don’t know the name Joy Mangano, you do know her invention – the Miracle Mop. A self-wringing mop which Joy sold herself on the Home Shopping Network. There’s a fairy tale like feel to the whole film which starts with Joy’s grandmother (Diane Ladd) telling the story of young Joy who was always very smart and determined and had potentially-lucrative inventions in her bedroom, but had a less than supportive family. Her grandmother was the only one that encouraging to Joy – her fairy god-mother, if you will.

There’s also a parallel soap opera that plays out alongside Joy’s story. Her mother (Virginia Madsen) watches a soap opera, obsesses about it, and does nothing else. Her father (Robert De Niro) criticizes his ex-wife and hides Joy’s ex-husband in the basement while he attempts to revitalize (aka start) his lounge-singing career. And that doesn’t include her passive-aggressive sister (Elisabeth Rohm). Have you figured out that there’s also a dysfunctional family dramedy going on this movie? It’s worth noting that Edgar Ramirez who plays Tony, Joy’s hilariously inept ex-husband, gave the best supporting performance in the film.

There are a lot of competing tones in this film (and they don’t all work), but what holds it all together is Jennifer Lawrence as Joy. She embodies the main themes of female- and self-empowerment beautifully. She’s smart, strong, capable, and determined. It’s her determination that gives the film its main entertaining driving power. She’s always ready with a quick retort, or literally putting mop to floor to clean up everybody else’s mess. Joy is a little messy with many competing genres at work, but Lawrence cleans it up nicely.