From the director of multiple Oscar-nominated films such as ‘American Hustle’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, David O Russell’s ‘Joy’ surprisingly falls short.
Not even the star-studded and brilliant cast, comprised of Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro could pull his film together.
Unconventionally, this story about overcoming hardships spends much of its time examining the parasitical, wildly neurotic Mangano family through an alternative and artistic viewpoint. Although, it’s comedic mockery of a dysfunctional household is the only thing holding my attention, in an overall slow plot.
In loosely conveying the true life story of Joy Mangano, the innovative creator of the Miracle Mop and other appliances, Russell’s film presents an overall nostalgic and dream-like nature by unsubtly entering into Joy’s memories of the past and her tormented dreams of being weighed down by her family, where we are underlined with empowering metaphors of the importance of women’s professional and personal strength and the suppression of professional ambitions due to a lack of familial support.
Joy’s life is followed across four generations of the Mangano family, as narrated by the voice of Mimi (Diane Ladd), Joy’s grandmother and only one with faith in her creative genius.
The first half of the film is centered around the quirky and unrealistically dramatic family, who are blind to acknowledge their dependence on the struggling householder Joy.
Joy’s mother, Terry (Virginia Madsen), is reluctant to move from her bed and in a phase of psychological reliance on the lives of those within her favorite eighties soap opera. Joy’s father, Rudy (Robert De Niro), is more concerned with finding his ‘soul mate’, and despite being divorced several times, Joy’s half-sister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm) latches onto their father’s approval through bitter rivalry with Joy.
Ironically, Joy’s closest companion is her ex-husband, Tony (Edgar Ramirez), who resides in her basement, senselessly trying to become the next “Tom Jones” musician. However, comparing their own lives to that of a constantly recurring TV soap opera, which is seen in the opening shot of the film, we are incessantly reminded of the far-fetched characters who possess what appear to be a lack of true human emotion.
Yet, despite a slow and uneventful start, the journey Joy faces after continuously being put down by her family and subdued, her persistence to create the Miracle Mop sparks a business breakthrough on a television shopping network QVC, managed by Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper).
Through various heartfelt and dramatic scenes of intense acting on Jennifer Lawrence’s behalf, we are left pleading for Joy’s succession and positive recognition by her family.
While the film has picked up some harsh criticism and even dubbed “a mess” (USA Today) and “shockingly bad” (Vox), it is hard to bypass the undoubtedly exceptional and real performance from Jennifer Lawrence, despite some of the other eccentric characters.
Even in the same presence as De Niro and Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence stands out, nailing her role through a true understanding of Joy Mangano and ability to portray raw emotion under very imaginative circumstances.
Consequently, the outstanding performances from an acting point of view were somewhat diminished by the film’s lack of dramatic tension and suspense.
The plot is short of depth, as there is minimum pressure or urgency in regards to solving problems that arise in the story line, which makes it quite hard to watch at times.
In the end, David O Russell has made an effort to go down a more unconventional path in order change the typical biopic films. By encompassing an atmosphere to compliment a soap opera, he has made artificial and over-exaggerated characters that unfortunately do not flatter the overall message of betrayal, loyalty, love, neglect and tackling the unforgiving world of commerce.
That being said, he has made a very unique film that is certainly comedic and a good laugh, and of course, heavily impacted by the outstanding performance of Jennifer Lawrence.
My Rating: 5/10