Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramírez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rosselini, Dascha Polanco, Elisabeth Rohn, and Bradley Cooper
Directed by David O. Russell
While I enjoyed The Fighter, David O. Russell's two subsequent well-received films -- Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle -- didn't register as successful to me as they did to others. Considering the less-than-enthusiastic reviews for the writer-director's latest, Joy, my expectations were quite low. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised with the tale which isn't without a few faults in its story, but manages to be Russell's most entertaining film to date.
Joy is the semi-biographical story of Joy Mangano (played here by Jennifer Lawrence), a divorced mother of two who invents an ingenious new mop in an effort to better her life. Obstacles are certainly placed in Joy's way -- her live-in divorced mother (Virginia Madsen) refuses to leave her bedroom where she watches soap operas all day, her father (Robert De Niro) has just moved back in causing trouble, her ex-husband (Edgar Ramírez) lives in her basement -- but she's motivated by her grandmother (Diane Ladd) who has always believed that the high school valedictorian isn't living up to her potential. With the monetary assistance of her father's new widowed girlfriend (Isabella Rosselini), Joy creates her mop and finds herself shilling the device on the shopping network QVC after convincing an executive (Bradley Cooper) of her wares.
While I mentioned earlier that Joy is Russell's most entertaining film, that doesn't necessarily make it his best. There are moments in Russell's story and in his direction of his actors where he loses some focus, opting for quirkiness rather than fluidity. While this proves to be amusing at first, it does grow a little wearisome when we in the audience want the film to focus on Joy's passion, perseverance, and fortitude as opposed to her odd family. De Niro, Madsen, and Rossellini are all good, but I sometimes felt they were in a different film as their characters felt more like "Characters" than actual people. Also, although Jennifer Lawrence is totally engaging as the strong-willed title character, she has an accent problem here in that whatever she was trying to attempt vocally fades in and out throughout the film enough that it proves noticeable.
Russell's an intriguing director to me in that I appreciate his stylization -- his use of music is always unique, even if sometimes a bit pretentious -- but when he lenses his own screenplays, he lacks the focus needed to reel in some of his odd excesses. His best film -- The Fighter -- wasn't penned by him and I can't help but think that the guy should open up to filming other peoples' stuff again. Joy gets him headed in the right direction, though, and I hope he'll continue the upward trajectory.
The RyMickey Rating: B-