For Reel

Joy (2015)
January 7, 2016, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: David O. Russell
2.5 Stars
JoyIn a flashback sequence early in Joy, the young Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence as an adult) argues that she doesn’t need a prince, finalizing the opening title card sentiment that the film is, “inspired by the true stories of daring women.” In a family of matriarchs (the film is narrated by the grandmother (Diane Ladd)), Joy is what keeps the household moving and functional, caring for her television addict mother (Virginia Madsen), narcissist father (Robert De Niro), and even the ex-husband that lives in the basement (Edgar Ramirez). What comes next is straight from the pages of a fairytale, with Joy elevating herself above the family that brings her down by finding her own fame and fortune. That Joy plays as a Cinderella story is not among its flaws–in fact, it’s an interesting take on the surreal, glossy world of television informercials–but that director David O. Russell maintains an interest in his familiar dysfunctional family aesthetic is a significant hindrance. It’s a whole hour before the meat of the plot gets moving, and in that time little is revealed about the family beyond the one-note characterizations, with Lawrence herself being swallowed up by the overwrought domestic squabbles. On her own and confronting a big shot at QVC (played by a finely understated Bradley Cooper), the film begins to gain some momentum, even if its ultimately cut short by the tidy conclusion. After a string of successful messes, Joy is perhaps the least cohesive of all of Russell’s recent output–it is a parade of asynchronous tones, oddball soundtrack choices, and a screenplay that seems to be making it up as it goes along (and not in the good, improvisational way of The Silver Linings Playbook).

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