Joy (2015)

Doesn't live up to the name

Director: David O. Russell
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez

Considering the dual success of Silver Lining Playbook and American Hustle, it feels one goal was in mind with making Joy. Have David O. Russell make a  film starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. The story? Not as important.

Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) is a divorced mother, putting her dreams on hold to look after her family after her parents divorce. Eventually, she got sick of living her life this way, and attempted to become a success through inventing the Miracle Mop.

It's no surprise that Jennifer Lawrence does fantastic work in the title role. From the smallest glance to the most passionate of moments, she delivers talent to the role wherever possible. What helps is how the rest of the cast follow suit, bringing a great deal of talent into their roles. Edgar Ramirez helps make the romance, and later friendship, between Joy and him believable, which is helpful when their marriage (and subsequent divorce) is over before you know it.  Unfortunately, good performances doesn't make her family any more bearable from how they're portrayed.

Elisabeth Röhm's wasted as Peggy, Joy's sister whose only character trait is the sibling jealousy, as she constantly attempts to undermine Joy's efforts. Virginia Madsen plays Joys self-involved mother, doing nothing of consequence before disappearing into an off-screen relationship, sporadically reappearing to remind viewers of her existence. Robert De Niro comes off the worst, playing the type of father who makes a call which ends up backfiring dearly, and then proceeds to blame Joy for it. None of them feel like characters, but merely difficulties to show how difficult a life Joy has.

For someone who's proven himself multiple times over the past few years, it's a bit of a surprise how uneven David O. Russell's direction is here. It's clear what he's attempting, taking the story of Joy's rise, and using it as the springboard for a tale of an independent woman who took charge of her life. What's unfortunate is how dull the delivery is, as the plot meanders through multiple moments, while rushing through others. This is before it scrambles to deliver a a hasty resolution, and pass it off as an ending.

One of the more distracting parts is the awkward editing. This takes away from what the scenes are attempting, as it's difficult to care about a sick child or a character whose entered the room, when the faces are obscured or the heads are cut from the scene entirely. The most notable instance is when Joy shows off her Mop to the QVC board, only to fumble about and even spill it on a man's shoe. This scene could have resulted in some mild levity, had we gotten to see any of it play out. Instead, we're trapped watching Bradley Cooper's unimpressed face for no real reason.

With his latest film, David O. Russell has created too much of a mess to be wiped away with a Miracle Mop. All this cookie cutter semi-biopic has going for it is the cast of great performances, led by the always fantastic Jennifer Lawrence.

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