Nominated for Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards 

I’m not certain what the hell David O. Russell was trying to accomplish with “Joy”. Something tells me he didn’t know either. It’s sporadically interesting, and occasionally works in fit-and-starts. It also starts story lines, and then abruptly drops them. Mr. O. Russell also seems to be cribbing from other (better) directors. Then it concludes with a horribly condescending, and totally inept, penultimate scene. Well-intentioned? Who gives a shit…it’s embarrassing. Oh, Jennifer Lawrence is good. Outside of “The Hunger Games”, she is usually quite good. But she’s too young for the part, and it’s far from her best. Charlize deserved the damn spot. Or Lily Tomlin.

In 1989, Joy Mangano (Ms. Lawrence) is a divorced mother with two kids, working at a dead-end job, and living with her mom (Virginia Madsen-okay) and grandmother (Diane Ladd-pretty good). Joy’s parents are divorced too, and whenever her dad (Robert De Niro) comes to the house, their is much squabbling. Joy is a marvel in her roles as referee (to her battling parents), Ms. Fix-it (some amateur plumbing duties), and fledgling inventor (in what quickly becomes the center of plot attention…a self-wringing mop). When Joy’s financial troubles really ratchet up, she turns to a relatively new television shopping network, to hawk the unique mop she’s invented. In short order, Joy’s fortunes take a turn for the better. But the film becomes a weird hybrid.

There’s a subplot involving Joy’s mother having a relationship with a soulful plumber (Jimmy Jean-Louis), that goes nowhere, and appears to be an example of Mr. Russell coasting in Wes Anderson territory. Also, Joy’s father is in a relationship with a rich, Italian widow (Isabella Rossellini–fine.), who ends up giving her some money to get her product off the ground. That kinda works. But the close grandma connection (so she narrates it?) never lands with any impact. Then Bradley Cooper is brought in as a QVC exec–because it’s a David O. Russell movie, and Cooper and Lawrence are always together. But it’s an odd bit of casting and mostly a distraction here. This is probably David O.’s weakest film. Whenever the screenplay seems uncertain, he adds an oddly placed flight-of-fancy. He wrote it…so, it’s all his. It’s an uneven work, and not very inspired. Oh, and it has Melissa Rivers playing her late mother, Joan. But I guess I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.

Grade:  C

next review up:  “Tomorrowland”



4 comments on “Joy

  1. I think is a case where the trailer was far better than the movie.
    I adored the soap stars in the cast (some of my all time favourites) but this aspect was another thread that went nowhere!

  2. I wanted to love this as there are so many strong and older women in it. That hardly ever happens in movies. And the use of soap stars was great fun. But I never really warmed to the movie. I like all the stars, but I felt it was trying to be a big movie about a little story. I guess that was meant to be showing us the American Dream? But I didn’t care too much about any of these people. Your review highlights the many problems with this tale.

    • It does feature some actresses that I truly LOVE. Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd, Isabella Rossellini…too bad it didn’t represent them with a better film. I appreciate the ‘American Dream’ scenario…and I do like Lawrence in this. But too many dead-ends and uncertainty.


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