David O. Russell’ Joy stars Jennifer Lawrence as the titular character based on the real world figure Joy Mangano who rose to the head of a powerful business empire with a simple idea.
It sounds like it should be a really difficult story to tell and in many ways it is. There are so many legalities and other difficulties involved in this particular story and the film does its best to touch on them while keeping it focused on the character of Joy and how she reacts to all of this.
There’s a lot of story to tell and the pacing is incredibly manic trying to keep up with the ever changing events as they happen. If you aren’t paying close attention then it’s possible to miss a small detail that actually becomes important later in the film. It’s not unsuccessful at what it’s trying to do but at times it is hard to keep up and there’s the occasional feeling of ticking necessary boxes.
Jennifer Lawrence delivers a really watchable performance as she always does and really brings Joy to life. Early on it’s easy to relate to her situation as she is being pulled in so many different directions without any sort of break and the tight focus on her facial expressions lets us see how it makes her feel. Joy is someone desperate for some kind of break and I was definitely rooting for her to get it.
These early scenes are the most interesting as she tries to manage her difficult mother (Virginia Madsen) who is so horribly addicted to soap operas that she is incapable of looking after herself, her two children, her father (Robert De Niro), her Ex Husband (Edgar Ramirez) and still try to pull enough money together to keep the bills paid. I’m exhausted just typing all that so imagine having to live it.
I really liked seeing Joy struggle to get through the day while attacking it with a kind of inner strength that few would have under such pressure. The cracks are definitely there but remarkably she gets on with it. Jennifer Lawrence conveys the different layers of her stressed out mindset perfectly. The manic pacing really helps show how tiring her life is in these scenes.
Once her idea is in full swing and she tries to get it sold amidst all the complications that come with business things speed up massively and not always in a good way. Before I knew what was happening her “Miracle Mop” was being broadcast on QVC with an endless list of complications both before and after that event all dealt with in some way. Bradley Cooper’s turn as QVC station manager Neil Walker is pretty much what you’d expect from him in a good way and compliments the film well without overpowering Lawrence’s performance.
The other supporting characters are pretty hit and miss. Edgar Ramirez’ Tony is one of the stronger aspects of the film but randomly fades into the background to the point that he is almost forgotten about. Joy’s half sister Peggy (Elizabeth Rohm) and investor/fathers girlfriend Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) are the weakest links in the film.
Robert De Niro brings his usual charm to the table and makes me wonder which family member of Jennifer Lawrence or Bradley Cooper he will move to next. He has been Bradley Cooper’s on screen father and now Jennifer Lawrence’s so I wonder if he’ll move to being either of their grandfathers in future films.
Another thing that lets the film down slightly is that the conclusion drags on for a lot longer than it should. There’s a defined point where it feels as if the film should end and then it keeps going. When this is coupled with a narration that pops in and out at seemingly random intervals then the whole structure of the film could have been a lot better.
Joy isn’t a bad film at all but there’s definitely too much going on for it to be a great one. It’s definitely worth watching for Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as well as the excellent build up. Nothing about it stands out as terrible and I was entertained throughout but a lot of it could have been done better.
This marks the final 2015 film review for Kneel Before Blog. Stay tuned over the next couple of days for my lists featuring my best and worst films of the year.