I liked Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle was kinda forgettable, but thankfully Joy, the third collaboration of Director David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence is better than both.
Centering on the real life story of Joy Mangano, as she attempts to provide for her family be inventing the Miracle Mop, it stars J Law as the titular Joy. Not, perhaps, the obvious choice for a biopic, but it somehow works, not least because of the stellar central performance from Lawrence and a style as rich and rewarding as any Film out this season.
Joy lives and works for her family, caring for her kids, her depressed and bedbound mother, elderly grandmother, Ex-Husband and now grumbling father (Robert De Niro). As she struggles as the matriarch of this extended family, she hits upon the idea that would change her life forever. As she fights her way to the top, battling legal disputes, threats of bankruptcy and her own family, she must also act as the guiding light to her wayward family.
When it comes down to it, this is a Film that has strong women as it’s inspiration and a very feminist viewpoint on its mind. Joy is a wife, mother, and daughter, but ultimately she decides her own fate, and won’t let anyone knock her down or tell her no. She is strong of will and earnest of heart, and Lawrence plays the damage, world-weary Joy as such. Simply, this is one of her best performances.
As the story goes on, and she finally ends up on QVC (not a spoiler), you can’t help but smile a bit, as she gains her confidence and makes up for years of complying to the idea that she can’t or shouldn’t. When Lawrence smiles, you smile. When she cries, you cry. She is the anchor to this Film, and like the sun, the rest of the cast orbit her, but can never truly eclipse her.
Even DeNiro, playing DeNiro, can’t match her for her raw watchability, and Bradley Cooper tones down any manic wide-eyed ticks, and plays it straight, never coming across as a bad guy, in a refreshing way.
The rest of the cast, Édgar Ramírez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini and Dascha Polanco, are all very well suited for the film, playing up their comedy or honesty, and deepening the relationships of the Film. Like all the classics, Joy gathers a dysfunctional family, puts them in a house, gives them something to worry over, and shows us the results.
Elsewhere, the cinematography is beautiful, the snowy landscapes and 70’s chic match each other perfectly, and at no point does it overdo itself.
Then there’s the music, which is often composed of famous songs, and works very well.
It’s a bit of a soap sometimes, this is made very clear by the attention that chitzy and glam 70’s soap operas get, but it’s not overdone, and it doesn’t get in the way. It is perhaps too long. You think it’s about to end, then it doesn’t, then it happens again.
It also sometimes seems a bit too broad, particularly with the narration which chronicles the life of Joy through the voice of her Grandmother, which the Film tries to make the most important relationship in it, but doesn’t put a lot of effort in.
In the end, this is a story of power and of working hard, Female Empowerment and Family. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, after all the negative reviews it has been getting, and so yeah, I like it.