Movie Review: Joy

Joy is filled with committed performances, but its talented cast can’t save it from a badly written and executed screenplay that sidelines its titular character.

Joy is the wild story of a family across four generations centered on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right.

Of course, the Oscar season wouldn’t pass by without a biopic or two.

Joy Mangano, a self-made tycoon with 100 patents, has something that would make award strategists jump for joy – a rags to riches story of a divorced mother with three children.

Of course, who else would play this in a David O. Russell movie than Jennifer Lawrence, the go to actress for mature roles because according to Hollywood, middle-aged women don’t exist. In fairness, she does her best and its easy to root for her. The rest of the cast did well with what they’re given. But no matter how Bradley Cooper try to make it appear that he’s not phoning it in, he has the same look he had in the equally messy Aloha.

Joy does have something here somewhere. The camera follows its titular character at every step as she tries to make her way out of the muck, even though there’s plenty of dead weight holding her back. The movie excels in those mundane moments when it focuses on its lead. The familial discord does offer some amusing antics.

Unfortunately, David O. Russell dilutes the value of the source material by adding a botched formula. Like American Hustle, the movie is more preoccupied in parading around its mix of characters and ends up pushing the main narrative to the sidelines. The family drama drags on with a soap opera theme and when the plot finally remembers what it’s supposed to be about, Joy’s epiphany is an out of the blue eureka moment instead of ingenuity born out of necessity.

Riding from the success of the Silver Lining’s Playbook, Russell tries to milk the chemistry between J.Law and B.Coop, but falls flat because everything else around them is a mess. After a lengthy exposition centered around family dysfunction, the movie turns into a fairy tale of the strong independent woman with a perfunctory ending.

Try as as she might, Jennifer Lawrence can’t save a half-baked movie. Russell tries to mix offbeat comedy with gritty working class drama, but fails to make it come together. It didn’t help that the lead who is supposed to tie it all together, is a caricature buried underneath flighty tonal shifts, obvious exposition, contrived dialogue, and one note foils.

Joy tries to be the feminist movie of the year, but its held back by a badly written and executed screenplay from a director who’s more interested in selling his wares. Joy is more of a mash-up between American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook than an origins story that its plucky heroine deserves.

My Rating: 4/10

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