So I watched Joy…
As you’ve probably gathered by now, I have a real love for movies and I love that I have this little corner of the internet to express that love. That being said, there are still times when going to the cinema is a hassle and writing a review is a tedious task. Sometimes I literally have to drag myself to the movies and get the ‘job’ done. It’s worth the effort more times than not and Joy certainly is one of those movies that reminds me how exciting and uplifting my little hobby can be. As I walked out the theatre I couldn’t wait to review this – this film is a gem.
Okay, basic plot: Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) is a hardworking mother of two who’s lost a great deal of the wonder and imagination she had as a child. When she was younger, Joy (encouraged by her grandma) constantly invented things and dreamed of inventing a product that would change her life. Joy’s dreams, however, were forced to take a backseat to life as she struggles to support the different members of her family. One day Joy has an epiphany and designs a mop that allows the user to ring its head without ever touching it. Joys believes her idea is great and works hard to make it into a successful business but obstacles (from home and the business world) continually rise up against her, testing her determined spirit. With her future and the livelihood of her family and her children on the line, Joy invests everything into her new business and works like hell to make it a success.
Trailers can be deceiving. If I had judged this movie purely based on its trailer, I probably wouldn’t have seen it. In fact, after watching this film, I recommended it to a friend and she was surprised it was so entertaining because its trailer had been so “meh”. Luckily for me, I’ve seen previous collaborations between director and writer, David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook & American Hustle) so I had more than a little hope of a successful movie. Joy is wildly entertaining. I went in expecting an Oscar candidate that would probably be a technically well put-together film but lacking real thrill and I could not have been more wrong. Yes, this film is technically well put-together; but it also has a real panache to it which I loved. I remember during the course of this movie taking a second to pause and think, “wow, I’m really enjoying this movie.” Now when a movie is so good that it makes me take note of my enjoyment, that’s when a movie is true quality.
Jennifer Lawrence puts in an amazing performance in this film – perhaps, the best acting I’ve seen her produce. The quality of her portrayal of this character is the stuff that Oscars are made of. Joy is a strong, caring character who has had life take away more than it’s given. She’s gone through some real ordeals and endured some truly challenging times but she never complains or feels as if life owes her something. Every time a challenge arises, she works harder to overcome it. I love when characters are written and portrayed like this. Too often movies try to blackmail us into feeling sorry for characters and I find this extremely annoying at times. It’s great seeing a character that we can sympathise with, not asking for sympathy. It further cements their strength and makes the character truly memorable.
Now Lawrence isn’t the only one putting in stellar performances – the entire cast is sensational. What can you say about Robert De Niro that hasn’t already being said? He’s an old pro and a master of his craft who once again shows his remarkable range and ability to own a character. Édgar Ramírez also impressed me in this film. I liked him in the 2015 remake of Point Break and he puts in a performance of real charm and humour in this film. Besides Joy, I think his character (Tony – Joy’s ex husband) was probably my favourite. Really the entire cast of this movie deserves praise but I’ll single out just one more actor – Elisabeth Röhm. Röhm stars as Joy’s half-sister, Peggy. She’s a vile character who is one of the forces holding Joy back from true success. I absolutely hated her and was rooting for a piano to drop on her head throughout the entire movie. My level of hate for the character really marks how strong her performance was.
David O. Russell impressed me with how well he managed to keep this film focused. One of the central aspects of the movie is Joy’s family and we spend a great deal of time with them. Now films with families can often go awry because of the number of individual stories we have to keep track of. This can lead to a disjointed film if not kept in check. Luckily Russell avoids this potential bombardment of differing stories by keeping things very central. We’re often shown the family all at once with a large part of the film taking place in Joy’s home, and the family is also quite involved in Joy’s business. This helps brings all the stories together and prevents us from having to dart across different characters to get an idea of the conflict within the family.
David O. Russell also creates a wonderful script filled with pieces of powerful dialogue and engaging scenes. Russell takes his time with this story, giving us a patient and well-paced opening which allows us to meet and assess all the characters; followed by a more driven and purposeful middle and conclusion. This movie constantly feels like it’s in motion; there’s never any stagnation. One thing leads into another and the story is driven forward by our characters instead of random events. You’re also given enough time to connect with the characters and this movie does something great because it shows you things instead of telling you things. You’re allowed to make your own decisions about the characters because you get to see how their actions define them instead of a passing description given by another character.
Overall, Joy is a real gem. It’s an inspirational story but not one of those inspirational stories that preaches to you and makes you feel like you’re not doing enough with your life. It has a wonderful cast who bring David O. Russell’s brilliant script to life with real class. I highly recommend seeing it. 8/10