Movie Review: Joy
From the acclaimed director of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, Joy packs in the dream team of Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro once more to deliver a worthy -- yet somewhat flawed -- biopic about one of the most successful businesswomen in America. Strong-willed in his mission to give us yet another brilliantly written and well-acted film that'll stick with you for a while, director David O. Russell knocks it out of the park with this profound tale of hard work and the consequences that come with it.
Raised on the promise that she would become something great in her life, a woman of strong will and no fear, Joy Mangano (Lawrence) grows into the life she never saw for herself. Living the life of a single mother of three with a lazy ex-husband (Édgar Ramírez) and ill-tempered father (De Niro) at her side, Joy longs to fulfill her childhood dreams of bringing her ideas to the business world. After sparking a risky idea and getting her father's new girlfriend to invest in her new invention, the Miracle Mop, Joy embarks on a business venture like no other. Aided by her new business associate Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) and new sense of brutal determination, Joy does whatever it takes to rise to fame as one of America's greatest success stories.
Established by the great success of his last two films with his now signature trio -- one being a stellar peek inside a complicated relationship between a jobless mental patient and his even more wild friend, the other being a flamboyant crime caper about the crooked ways of con artists -- one could say director David O. Russell found his golden ticket with this trio of superb talent. Much like he did with Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, Russell enlists a bounty of sharp comedy and flawless atmosphere to bring his signature touch to Joy. Leaving the theater for the film, however, I was saddened by how unimpressed I was by this film compared to Russell's last piece. With Joy evoking less of the exuberant thrill that American Hustle conveyed, and more of the quick witted dialogue and reality that Silver Linings brought us, I was left conflicted on how I felt about this film.
While it may have not compelled my attention as much as Hustle did, with slightly less lively performances from its thick cast, Joy reminded me a lot of Silver Linings Playbook. Also a film I neither loved nor hated, but appreciated rather as a quality comedy-drama with stellar acting, Silver Linings, like Joy, was a film I could easily watch again and again, but may not thoroughly enjoy every time. Nevertheless, the profound story that David O. Russell's latest delivers definitely didn't go without recognition. Much like his last two films, Russell gives us a very human tale, telling off a broken protagonist on the road to making their life all it can be. With the story of Joy Mangano, a single mother raised up from her humble beginnings to do whatever she put her mind to, Russell manages to infuse wholesome -- yet highly dysfunctional -- family values with the sharp and treacherous business scene. Overall, a film that teaches us to not always follow in the footsteps of our ancestors, and ultimately pursue what you were born to pursue, Joy succeeds in that regard.
Female-driven for the most part, as powerhouse Jennifer Lawrence leads the show with a range of opinionated women behind her -- from her unusual mother to her obnoxious half-sister -- the film's performances may not be golden, but they do come very close. Beginning with the ever-dynamic Jennifer Lawrence, the actress clearly shines here, as it has become blatantly obvious that she is truly in her element in these types of films. Rather than her somewhat dreary role as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise (which has unfortunately lost my interest with every new installment), in the realm of a David O. Russell film, she looks to have a whole new life to her acting. While I'll still watch her in anything she does, Russell's past three runs with not only Lawrence, but also De Niro and Cooper as well, have resulted in some of the actors' best work. As for Lawrence, while she does offer up another brilliant performance as the lead, there are a few beats that come off a bit uneasy, making for one of two awkward scenes. Nevertheless, the pride and strength Lawrence brings to the strong-willed character somewhat make up for that.
As for the remaining cast, De Niro delivers a hilarious and no-holds-barred performance yet again as Joy's disgruntled father, but doesn't really play a huge part in the second act of the film. Cooper acts well as Joy's business associate, who rather than falling in love with her as one would assume he would, plays the devil's advocate for Joy. Turning from a loyal businessman to adversary and back again within the film, Cooper played off Lawrence like usual, with sparks flying even if they didn't end up together in the end. Another highlight in the cast was Joy's lazy ex-husband-turned-business partner, played by Édgar Ramírez. A comical character that also offered an interesting relationship between his character and Lawrence's, Ramírez didn't just take a backseat as he played well against a commanding leading lady.
Overall, while Joy may not be as sharply-tuned as Silver Linings Playbook or as glamorous as American Hustle, David O. Russell doesn't fail with his dream team of Lawrence, Cooper, and De Niro. Ultimately a tale of how one woman transformed herself into one of the many fearless businesswomen in America, Joy mixes together a gracious array of themes, from family and finance to determination and detergent, all to deliver a satisfying experience at the theater. Energetic and comical in his filmmaking, anything David O. Russell puts to screen with these three, I can agree on.
I gave this film 6 out of 10 for its brilliant cast from a livelier Lawrence to a cultivated Cooper, its flawed yet captivating story of the measures between family and business, and its once-again phenomenal direction from a director with a unique style and an eye for the dramatic.