Thursday, December 31, 2015

Movie Review #355: "Joy" (2015)

Director: David O. Russell
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes
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Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) is a single mother who struggles to take care of her dysfunctional family. She has come up with a new invention which, if successful, could change all of their lives forever, but failure would mean losing everything.  

Director David O. Russell brings audiences everywhere his latest film starring his favorite actress, Jennifer Lawrence, this time in the titular role of Joy. He also assembles his favorite supporting cast of Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper to back up her lead role. This film is loosely, and we mean loosely, based on the life of inventor Joy Mangano. When we first saw the original trailer for this movie, we had no idea what it was going to be about, and by the looks of it, it almost seemed like it was going to be a mafia film. In the past 3 years of going to the movies at least 3 times a week, we have found that David O. Russell is one of the most misleading movie makers when it comes to manipulating his films via trailers, but where he has found relative success doing this in the past may have backfired on him with "Joy." This time around, the trailer for the film is slightly more intriguing than the final product itself. What the audience may have expected and what they received were two wildly different things. In fact, if we didn't look up what "Joy" was about many months ago, we might be a little more pissed off than we are right now. This film is a rather slow paced semi-biopic about a single mom who invents a new and innovative mop. Surrounding this invention is the non-linear story of Joy's life from age 10-ish on, full of unused potential, unfulfilled dreams, and a terribly self-centered family that she continues to support despite them being huge assholes. Where Joy knows she succeeds is in inventing things, but between her family and the universe, her potential is squandered and thwarted at every turn. Her life and story are that of struggle and redemption simultaneously, a rags to riches tale which is different from the typical male-driven American success story we are usually fed in mainstream cinema.

Unfortunately, "Joy" is still, at its crux, a movie about a woman who invented a mop. There are a lot of parts that just drag and repeat and are tedious to watch. There is the occasional moment of intensity or excitement, but most of these parts were shown in the trailer and didn't really need to be spoiled there. David O. Russell does manage to get some excellent camera shots here and there, but without a fully engaging story, again, lady with a mop. While the storytelling of it all might suffer, at least the acting is great, though really, when has Jennifer Lawrence ever done us wrong? Not yet, we imagine. The one very glaring part of her role as Joy is that she slips in and out of her East Coast accent, almost as if she can't decide whether to lay it on thick or lose it entirely. Robert De Niro is as good as ever as Joy's condescending asshole father Rudy, but let's be honest, when is De Niro not amazing? He has some good exchanges with Lawrence and with his ex-wife Terry, played by Virginia Madsen, a lonely shut-in who stays in her room in Joy's house and obsesses over horrible TV soap operas. Bradley Cooper has a very minor part in this film, about 15 minutes or so of screen time if that, and his role could have been filled by virtually anyone, but O. Russell loves his Lawrence-Cooper-De Niro trio something fierce.

We have a bone to pick with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. "Joy" was recently nominated for a Golden Globe in two categories: best comedy/musical, and best actress in a comedy/musical. Best actress we totally understand, though in a year saturated with phenomenal female performances, J.Law just has no chance in hell this year. Our bone is with it being nominated for best comedy?? This surprises us for two reasons: one, "Joy" is hardly award worthy, that's the bottom line, and two, how in the fresh hell is this movie a comedy? It isn't funny, that's for sure. There are the occasional comedic line (insults, rather) uttered by De Niro's Rudy, but in the context of the film, they are far more abusive than humorous. This is most certainly not a comedy, and neither is "The Martian" while we're at it, so did y'all just fall asleep when you were picking the nominees this year?

All this being said, there are some outstanding visuals and some good camera work here. On a technical level, David O. Russell made a well shot film, but once again (and we sound like a broken record), a pretty movie doesn't a movie make. It seems he took the time to craft a well packaged product, but we can't imagine ourselves revisiting "Joy" for a long while as it is kind of a drag. Jennifer Lawrence's commanding performance is something to write home about, but its underlying feminist message, the one he seemed to want it to have, is sort of lost in a sea of forced emotions, mediocre writing, and blah. We appreciate a story with zany characters and goings on, and "Joy" is chock full of 'em, though the road to get there is a bit arduous.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 57%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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