28 Dec

Joy (1)There is no doubt that film director David O. Russell had an unique cinematic vision. He started off (at least in his major films) with the pretty straight-laced “The Fighter”, but then “Silver Lining’s Playbook” was a bit kooky and “American Hustle” even more silly. While I liked all three of those films, I liked each of them a little bit less than their predecessor because I felt the great story of each picture was getting more and more covered up by the wild storytelling techniques. With “Joy”, that jump was even more pronounced, to the point where I struggled to even enjoy the experience at times.

For a basic plot summary, “Joy” tells the story of, well, Joy (Jennifer Lawrence), a woman who is unhappy with her life. Joy was always a dreamer and creator as a child, but both her mother (Virginia Madsen) and her father (Robert De Niro) are too caught up in their own life drama to give her much heed. As a young adult, Joy is practically the provider for and organizer of the entire family, but she decides she wants more. So, after a nasty glass-cutting-hands accident on a boating excursion, Joy sets her mind toward inventing and selling a self-wringing mop. During this journey, she meets Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), who introduces her to the concept of selling her productions on TV (QVC). Will Joy fail in the face of big business obstacles, or will she persevere? That is what the film builds towards down the home stretch.

Joy (3)

First and foremost, much credit must be given to Lawrence for an incredible acting performance, one that I could see perhaps taking home some hardware. One film at a time, she is proving that she is oh so much more than a pretty face and rising above her teen-themed Hunger Games routes. Just the fact that she can go from playing Katniss Everdeen to Joy is a testament to her acting range. Joy’s story is a compelling one, and Lawrence hits all the right emotions.

Joy (3)
The problem with this film, however, is that it often gets distracted from what seems to be the main purpose (telling Joy’s story). There are little interludes featuring soap operas that are quite bizarre, and the madcap tomfoolery that De Niro so expertly brought to “Silver Linings Playbook” feels a bit tired. The story of Joy is worthy of the big screen treatment, for sure, but the movie just doesn’t quite settle upon that until about half way through. Until then, it is filled with weirdness and madness in equal measure.

So, even though the concept is sound and it gets some great acting performances, I felt that director Russell went a little too crazy in trying to be creative instead of just sticking to the story. As I mentioned in the opener, “Joy” seems to continue a pattern from him in which each movie has to be quirkier than the next, which (at least to me) isn’t what makes his movies successful to begin with. I liked Russell because he can show a great human story. This one just crossed the line into “weird” for the first time.



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