ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Drama Film Review 2016: "Joy"(Written/Directed by David O. Russell, w/ Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro,Bradley Cooper)

Updated on January 6, 2016
3 stars for "Joy" Film
Scene of Joy freezing for her first time under the white hot lights of TV.
Scene of Joy freezing for her first time under the white hot lights of TV. | Source
Tense domestic drama: L to R: Isabella Rosselini as Rudy's girlfriend Trudy, De Niro as Rudy, Virginia Madsen as Joy's TV-obsessed mother, and Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) with her young daughter.
Tense domestic drama: L to R: Isabella Rosselini as Rudy's girlfriend Trudy, De Niro as Rudy, Virginia Madsen as Joy's TV-obsessed mother, and Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) with her young daughter. | Source

Jennifer Lawrence. Robert De Niro. Bradley Cooper. If those three names strung together illicit strong feelings of caffeinated energy and inspiration as the bells resound in your mind recalling their last (and best) David O. Russell collaboration "Silver Linings Playbook", you are certainly in for quite a treat. "Joy", a film loosely based off of 1990's American inventor Joy "Miracle Mop" Mangano, is a curious enterprise altogether because the subject matter seems almost out of left field. Consider this: O'Russell has never, in his near two-decade career crafted a biographical film before. His genre trajectory has included an adventure film ("Flirting With Disaster"), a war picture ("Three Kings"), a philosophical mood piece ("I Heart Huckabees") a sports drama ("The Fighter") a romantic comedy ("Silver Linings Playbook"), and a prestige crime film ("American Hustle"). The less we say about his mangled, absolutely bonkers, tonally dissonant and horridly disorienting "political comedy" that he affectionately once called "Nailed" the better. Point being: why now? And why Mrs. Mangano? Surely O'Russell isn't about to play it safe and offer us something far less existential and more chronological in presentation and technique. The good news is that the trailers were misleading in making this out to be an Awards bait movie filled to the brim with quip-riddled bantering from our leading and still-reigning Hollywood "IT" girl Lawrence whose carefully calculated choice in roles has emblazoned her as the toughest chic in Tinseltown. By no means an instant classic, this latest muse-driven film is surprisingly heady and you'd be unfortunate to head to the bathroom at any point in between.

Initially, I'll say it is one of the most dialogue-driven films O'Russell has ever conceived. The movie spends a solid part of its early duration establishing place, time and character development as we are immediately introduced to grade-school aged Joy as she constructs a rather intricate playhouse that's a total paper mache wonderland. Her grandmother, portrayed graciously by Diane Ladd, explaining in v.o narration remarks that these early growth spurts and interest is what ultimately spun Joy into the confident, whip-smart and take-no-prisoners entrepreneur that she'd later become. O'Russell shoots these scenes, and many others, with a vivid, high-resolution wonder that permeates through the frame and succeeds in pulling you into Joy's world. Her orbit starts out small - her misshapen family consisting of her divorcee husband living in the basement of her house (a suave but broken Edgar Ramirez), her soap-opera obsessed mother (an unrecognizable Virginia Madsen), her opportunistic and vengeful half-sister and her curmudgeon of a father (Robert De Niro). O'Russell expertly lays the brickwork here and emphasizes that Joy's cantankerous family life served as further motivation for her meteoric success. When the film isn't being very expository which, at times, becomes belabored to the point of excess, the technically accomplished and vivid world to which these character's populate is something out of high-fantasy and makes you divert your attention elsewhere until the movie finds its footing.

One of the most surprising elements of the movie is that, much like the recent Danny Boyle-helmed Steve Jobs biopic and the Brian Wilson musical docudrama "Love & Mercy", "Joy" does not really retain a sense of uplift at all until perhaps the last act of the movie. The through-line of Joy's narrative is rather depressive throughout and follows a particular pattern: misfortune occurs, her family tries to rectify and it backfires, Joy gets a new inventive idea that bubbles instantaneously into her head and, lastly, fueled by anger and frustration with people being undependable causes her to track down the men/women responsible so that they can get their comeuppance. In no small way, the film fills its cookie-cutter mold but the heavyweight drama with little signs that our protagonist will triumph make "Joy" curiously watchable and, in many facets, unpredictable. Lawrence, it appears, is the living embodiment of the 21st century independent female. Not only has she ushered in and anchored two franchises - "X-Men" and "Hunger Games" - her criticisms regarding the sizeable pay disparity in Hollywood and the regular workforce that she became a mouthpiece for using Lena Dunham's feminist upstart magazine Lenny Letter have been taken truly seriously for the first time in awhile. When Patricia Arquette, winner of the Best Actress Oscar for 2014's "Boyhood" incorporated that into her stump speech, it fell on deaf ears. Lawrence can be considered an overnight success - much like Mrs. Mangano whose fast track to super stardom blindsided her friends and, most especially, her vigilant competitors. The casting decision for O'Russell was natural. As compelling and important-sounding as Lawrence is throughout, her performance is rather one note. Thankfully, this film's supremely talented and diverse supporting cast make up the difference.

De Niro, much like he did in "Silver Linings Playbook" really shines as the blue collar businessman Rudy and father of Joy. We meet him at his lowest point when he gets kicked out by Joy's sister in law and is forced to co-habitate in the basement with all but a roll of toilet paper separating him and Joy's ex-husband Tony. De Niro's Rudy displays shades of complexity we've rarely seen pined from the actor in his later-period roles. Gone, hopefully, is the one-joke sleepwalker of the "Meet the Parents" franchise so here's hoping his continued bromance with O'Russell continues. Cooper, interestingly enough, doesn't appear until the end of the second act at the most confrontational summit of the film when Joy makes a last-ditch trip to QVC (short for "Quality", "Value", "Convenience") television station in the hopes of marketing her newly-minted mop to worldwide audiences. Cooper's Neil Walker, at first is a smarmy but very direct Executive who dismisses Joy's mop as "cheap-looking" and that he only picks products to showcase that he knows absolutely can sell. When Joy aggressively shows him an informal demonstration to illuminate the ease and utility of the device including its replaceable 300 cotton-curled head, his eyes flicker and light ablaze and gives her a chance. At this point, the movie really ascends to near-classic status and longtime screenmates Lawrence and Cooper effortlessly play off of each other and bring the best they both can muster into the fold. Fortunately, too, that there is not a hint of romance or even remote attraction between the two characters which I found refreshing. Essentially, strictly business and the film continually thrives as a result. Cooper, in a role-reversal from his prior few movies, plays a man of unflappable confidence and poise but not in the cocky, devil-may-care persona of his "Hangover" days. The rest of the cast - Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Melissa Rivers (cameo as her late mother) - all equally bring the necessary gravitas and authenticity to the story. Even veteran soap-opera star Susan Lucci shows up doing what she does best in some fantasy sequences that run parallel to the movie's primary arc.

O'Russell seems to have made the most of his resources for this film. Clearly his budget was expanded as he was able to utilize the now fairly routine digital de-aging technique in the flashback sequences to make De Niro look like his "Casino"-era self. Conversely, in the film's modern day scenes for the epilogue, the characters were aged believably. The film really only suffers early on as some exposition-laden fat could have been trimmed and several of the transitions and time-hopping could prove to be troubling. O'Russell still proves to be a signature talent and an auteur who never ducks and hides from a challenge but instead plows right on through it.


Bradley Cooper's Neil Walker filled with glee as he watches the sales returns at Joy's QVC expo.
Bradley Cooper's Neil Walker filled with glee as he watches the sales returns at Joy's QVC expo. | Source
Like mother like daughter? Melissa Rivers portraying her more formative late mother Joan.
Like mother like daughter? Melissa Rivers portraying her more formative late mother Joan. | Source

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)