365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

3Jan/160

Joy (2015)

Joy is the epitome of a very average movie with a standout lead performance. Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) will most definitely earn her fourth Academy Award nomination (third for Lead Actress) in five years for her role as the title character, but she does not have a chance to win. I think she would have had a shot had the movie been better received with critics and audiences, but it likely would not have been enough to knock off favorites Brie Larson (Room), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn), or Charlotte Rampling (45 Years). Lawrence and Cate Blanchette (Carol) likely will be the final two nominations with Carey Mulligan (Suffragette) having an outside chance to perhaps spoil.

So if Lawrence is the best part of Joy, let's talk about her first. This is her third collaboration in three years with director David O. Russell (The Fighter, Three Kings) and Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, Limitless). The previous two (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) were hugely successful at the box office and with critics (both movies have an aggregate score of over 92% on Rotten Tomatoes). Cooper was serviceable in a limited role, but Russel missed the beat on this film, which is almost unheard of him for him. Joy is a somewhat fictional character who was inspired by Joy Mangano life instead of just a carbon-copy of the woman herself. I think that might have been Russel's way of saying that the real life Joy wasn't animated enough for a full length biopic? Lawrence is Joy, a woman who in the very early 1990's comes up with the idea, creates a blueprint, and develops a prototype for a self-wringing mop. Always a dreamer, Joy had created ideas even when she was young, including a fluorescent pet collar that was never patented and ultimately produced by a manufacturer called Hartz Mountain. Joy learned from this lesson and promised that she would succeed at whatever her next invention was. Born to be an entrepreneur, Joy won't accept no as an answer to something that she believes in even if it bankrupts her.

Russel tries to capture the same quirkiness that he established in Silver Lining Playbooks. You've got the lovable lead in Joy. You've got the dysfunctional family which, in this movie, consists of Joy's two young children, her recluse mother Terry (Virginia Madsen - Sideways, Ghosts of Mississippi) who spends most of her day watching soap operas from her bed, her elderly grandmother (Diane Ladd - Wild at Heart, Rambling Rose)and her ex-husband of two years Tony (Edgar Ramirez - Zero Dark Thirty, The Counselor) who lives in the basement. When her overachieving half-sister Peggy (Elisabeth Röhm - television's Stalker, television's Client List) drops their nasty and temperamental father Rudy (Robert De Niro - Heat, Raging Bull) at her doorstep and says that he's her problem for awhile, she has no choice but to take him in.

Joy keeps the family together in addition to holding a job down as a customer service representative for the airlines at the airport. She does too much and receives too little. Her ultimate goal is to be an entrepreneur though. After cutting herself while cleaning up some glass, she comes up with the idea of the self-wringing mop. Her selling points would be it's ability to wring while also having a detachment component that would allow it to be washed. Her reasoning...why would you want to clean your nasty bathroom and use the same dirty mop to then clean your kitchen? You can't really beat that reasoning.

The movie then revolves around the ups and downs associated with getting her product known to the public, patented, and mass-produced all the while trying to keep vultures from stealing her idea or letting the necessary capital to do all the things she needs to do prevent her from doing them. This leads her to an appointment with likable, yet bottom-line watching Neil Walker (Cooper), one of the higher ups at QVC. There are ups and downs, but I'll leave this at that.

As mentioned, Lawrence is the glue of this movie. I would hate to see where it would have been with a less able leading actress. As mentioned, right now I think she's a lock to get one of the five Lead Actress nominations. And if she does, it will be from the movie that has the least chance of earning a Best Picture nomination. Joy is just not Best Picture nomination material. The dark comedy that enhanced movies like Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and Three Kings was attempted with Joy, but didn't quite work. Would this have worked more as a straight up drama? Probably not with the players involved. Russel's only true drama is The Fighter and even in that he really made use of the quirky, dysfunctional family. It's just not his style. So perhaps it's time to step aside from the Lawrence/Cooper combo and go for something new? With that said, these two have a combined six Oscar nominations for acting between them since 2011. It's one of those, if you can get them, why not get them. I think the formula was just wrong for this movie. It's unlikely to stick with you even 30 minutes after you see it.

Plot 8/10
Character Development 8/10 (Lawrence was fantastic...she held the movie together when it ultimately could have been a disaster)
Character Chemistry 7/10 (everything felt pretty forced...definitely not the same continuity as Silver Linings Playbook)
Acting 9/10 (Lawrence continues to be great...Cooper was very good while limited...De Niro did a fine job as well)
Screenplay 7.5/10 (eh...the movie didn't hook me...there's lots of stories out there to tell...I don't know if this necessarily needed to be one of them)
Directing 7/10 (Russel's poorest effort in quite some time)
Cinematography 8/10 (quite honestly...I thought this film was a late 70's/early 80's movie until I researched it afterwards...it didn't feel early 90's to me)
Sound 7/10 (the cool scores that he Russel had with his other movies was missing here)
Hook and Reel 8/10 (good...just long and slow)
Universal Relevance 8/10 (eh...chasing the American Dream...the ups and downs associated with it...I just felt there were better biopics that these three could have been made when you've got the talent of Lawrence, Russel, Cooper, and De Niro)
77.5%

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