Film Reviews: “Joy” (2016)

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“Joy” has been a very long-awaited drama by David O. Russell and his usual ensemble of screen favourites, which I am sure you’ve heard of by now. It’s been gracing every underground station and double-decker bus, after all! Jennifer Lawrence has taken on the eponymous role, Robert De Niro plays her whimsical father, and Bradley Cooper is a savvy, television salesman. What an intricate, delicately-woven story writers Russell and Annie Mumolo have given creation to! Although I can tell you right now, the film deserves a prime spot on your January must-do list, let me explain why that is.

Joy Mangano is a divorced mother of two, who lives in a house with ex-husband Tony, mother Terri and gran Mimi. Their domestic abode is a chaotic mixture of financial strains, zero sleep, cheesy television operas and a daunting lack of any perspective for the future. Life is a boring, customer service work and a messy, broken home. Her father Rudy circulates dating adverts and services, coming in and out of his daughter’s life. Thinking it must be destiny, he begins a serious relationship with wealthy widow Trudy. One day Joy and her family find themselves on Trudy’s yacht, where after a wine spilling accident, Joy is left with cut-up hands. This gives her the ingenious idea of a revolutionary mop, which doesn’t need to be touched to be washed. It becomes clear that Joy has had brilliant invention ideas in the past, primarily as a child, which however, would get shut down by unsupportive parents. This time she isn’t letting go of her talent. Instead, she is more than determined to use it. Joy crafts her first Miracle Mop with help from best friend Jackie. Trudy is slowly persuaded to invest money in the product, thus giving Joy a business of her own. Step-sister Peggy is outlined as the most unsupportive and selfish being in their midst, constantly envious of any success Joy might accomplish. What the airport-worker-turned-inventor doesn’t know is that she is falling on a path of disappointments. Trudy gets her a shady contractor in California, Peggy and Rudy coil together behind closed doors, a second mortgage on the house is on the way and other people are out to steal Joy’s clever idea. Tony, being a close advisor to Joy, pushes her a slot with Neil Walker – an executive at QVC. After a small trip-up, Joy decides the bets way to sell her mop is appear on television herself. The sales begin piling, numbers keep rising. The Miracle Mop becomes a triumph. However, the world is closing in and Joy is in the centre. Most people she has trusted seem to have ulterior motives, and there’s a bigger battle waiting to be fought. Will the Miracle Mop be the answer to Joy’s prayers? Will she save her family from homelessness and bankruptcy, or are too many people trying to destroy her way to success?

Firstly, let me start off by saying this tandem is not a newly-found one. Last time we saw David O. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, they were sitting at the 85th Academy Awards. “Silver Linings Playbook” was a cinematic victory among audiences and critics alike. “Joy” pulls on some of the same strings – damaged families, broken people, subjectivity to a seemingly hopeless protagonist, who receives a chance to become their best self. In that aspect, the production is once again successful in its predecessor’s strongest points. That’s one of the reasons we’re hearing heaps of Oscar nods this year, “Joy” happens to be a safe guess for most.

Jennifer Lawrence is gentle in her madness, gracious in her blinding disappointment and fearless in the matters of her business. She is a well-developed character, who sees a lot of change and transforms along with it. Although she isn’t a glamorous, flamboyant and gorgeous figure, we still cheer the rugged housewife on. She makes the working class easily relatable, which is one of Lawrence’s greatest strengths. There is a quality in her acting, which combines the girl next door and the female warrior, intertwining their best and worst features together. In that way, she is unvanquished in “Joy”.

Virginia Madsen plays mother Terri, whose fear of bracing life after divorce is more than evident. She barely leaves her bedside and involves a great amount of time in a soap opera show so outrageously exaggerated, it manages to seep into Joy’s dreams. Madsen crafts a pitiful look at an older, single woman, who suffers in finding happiness. She manages to create an easily dislikable woman and parent, who steps up to redemption in the very last second.

That’s exactly the opposite of what I can say about Robert De Niro’s Rudy. He starts off being in the focus of better parenting. He has moved on with life, being humorous and enjoyable in light of his own, failing romantic chaos. However, as our story progresses, we peel away the layers of caring father, and reach an oblivious and reluctant man, who makes a show of love that isn’t there. We learn to feel disgusted with him and instead, realise how important Terri really is.

If this were a Shakespearian play, Peggy and Trudy would be the vile witches, while Tony and Jackie’d fill the shoes of queen guards. Although all four roles are secondary, that does not reduce their influence in the story. We connect to the sides they represent a lot better with the strength of their characters.

Over all, “Joy” is a film, which portrays struggle to regain lost hope and the possibilities life holds for those willing to enter the battle. David O. Russell tells this true story with a diverse glimpse at filmmaking and a first class script. Jennifer Lawrence is truly bathing in positive recognition for it, which is well deserved. A great January watch and perhaps even a DVD collection entry. As far as dramas are concerned, “Joy” pushes its way through to the finish line.

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