Jennifer Lawrence is superb in this inspiring, but flawed biopic.
At the heart of many David O. Russell’s films is the pursuit of the American Dream (think American Hustle, or The Fighter). Joy is no different as we follow the true story of Joy (a magnificent Jennifer Lawrence), a divorced mother of two who invented the Miracle Mop, and became an overnight success.
The story itself is certainly inspiring, the eponymous Joy has effectively been a door mat for her family and friends her entire life, she lets her mother, her grandmother, her father, and even her ex-husband stay at her house, caring for all of them, whilst also caring for her two young children. She always had dreams of becoming an inventor, but much like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, she is forced to stay in her small-town bubble in order to care for her family.
The problem with Joy is that it never really seems to become the finished article; it has a lot of heart, but not a lot of flesh around it. Director O. Russell never seems to be fully engaged in the story, an issue that is apparent on screen, and thus neither is the audience. The film is a little bit all over the place; it lacks any real focus and momentum, which is a shame because the story on its own is an intriguing one. Its lack of continuity and drive is probably in most part due to the fact that there are a total of 4 editors credited, something that has unfortunately lead to some pretty serious structural problems.
Joy sort of just feels like another standard David O. Russell picture, you really do know what you’re getting from him. The same old cast members pop up in the shape of Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro, and so does the same old dysfunctional family with De Niro at the oddball head of it, it almost feels like déjà vu, I’m not sure I’d be able to tell the difference between certain scenes from say, Silver Linings Playbook to Joy. This is not necessarily a bad thing, O. Russell has consistently made enjoyable, engaging, uplifting films that act as interesting explorations into suburban American life and the chase of the American Dream.
The film’s saving grace however is its star performer, Jennifer Lawrence, who is absolutely superb in her role as Joy. Lawrence pulls all the strings as the camera is always focused on her, following her whenever she leaves the room, or lingering on her whilst chaos ensues around her. Without her performance, this film really would not work; it would simply be a ‘wishy-washy’ mess of a film that can only be saved by a Miracle Mop up by Lawrence herself.
Despite its issues, Joy is an uplifting and inspiring film that will have you leaving the cinema with a can-do attitude, ready to sort your life out and find that job you always wanted, until the sofa calls that is…
Comedy, Drama | USA, 12A | 20th Century Fox Pictures | 1st January 2016 (UK) |Dir.David O.Russell | Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini