Film Reviews


By • Jan 4th, 2016 •

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Another film that must advise the audience that what you are about to watch was inspired/based upon true events. JOY disclaims: Inspired by true stories of daring women. One in particular. And wait… there’s more! Another film with a narrator from the great beyond.

Without any knowledge of the subject matter, the movie poster, with what appears to be snow falling amid the three lettered word JOY announcing its Christmas release date may dupe ticket buyers into thinking this is a holiday film. With its false advertising successfully pulling off the classic bait and switch technique, one will not find any Christmas trees and sugar plums but a dizzying entertaining pseudo biopic that eventually leads the way to revealing the point of it all. But then, who could fault the sneaky creatives behind the poster? Imagine incorporating a Ronco ad from the 80’s and 90’s of a woman and her mop.

JOY, the David O. Russell’s film with it’s usual threesome of DeNiro, Lawrence, and Cooper are mired in Russell’s favorite family quality – dysfunction. After all, what’s a cinematic family’s value if this nuclear family is cohesive at the core with unselfish love and resolve? The characters in JOY are intertwined for better or for worse much like in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and THE FIGHTER.

The opening sequence lyrically reveals Joy’s (Lawrence) family structure and the realm in which she helms. The narrative, as told by Grandma (Diane Ladd), details young Joy and the promise that this inventive little girl held. Introductions and circumstances flowingly progress, forwarding past two kids and a divorce. Joy holds a job as an airline reservationist barely keeping up her house financially, which is in disrepair, sheltering both children, mother, grandmother, ex-husband, and now her father who is returned by his ex-girlfriend because he is “damaged.”

Ex-husband Rudy and ex-wife Terry (Virginia Madsen) are reunited to trade barbs and insults. “Captain Jack the flying jackass” offers the retort, “You are like a gas leak. We don’t smell you, we don’t see you but you are killing us all silently.” This is followed by china smashing onto the floor in the bedroom where Joy’s mother, a useless recluse forever stationed on a bed, wastes away feeding her soap opera addiction.

Terry is the embodiment of the woman of yesteryear. And it is Terry’s mother who, perhaps, realizing that her daughter was her failure, doted on her granddaughter’s talents and empowered her through reassurance that this girl can do anything, eradicating previous decades of belief that a woman was a half-brained creature destined only to care for family.

It’s in this room that we learn of Joy’s previous invention that went unnoticed. A similar product, lacking what Joy’s design offered, was later marketed by a large company. Grandma gives the speech that it is not too late to realize her dreams and reawaken her ingenuity because hope springs eternal. Shrugging it off with a kiss for grandma, her daily calamity ensues.

Robert DeNiro’s Rudy is a business owner reliant upon both his of daughters who he had cast a net over to keep them close. Joy felt compelled to stay by his side during his divorce, went to school locally, and continues to do his business accounting. Her half-sister, a jealous woman still vying for daddy’s love, a modern day evil step-sister to Cinderella, has always worked at Rudy’s garage. Their father’s need for emotional support confirms his weakness although he projects whatever it is that affects women to take care of him. Once unattached, he’s on the market searching for his next caretaker- Isabella Rosellini; A tough cookie who agreed to Joy’s venture, yet, she is another woman in Rudy’s life wishing to pacify him.

Rudy still wants to call the shots even though his days of ruling the roost have long been over. Waltzing into the house upon his return, he is remanded to the basement to share it with Joy’s other ward, Tony the ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez). Once learning of his daughter’s ex’s residency, he’s quick to warn that this is an improper way to divorce.

Most of the men in this film do not measure up to chivalrous standards, nor do they treat Joy properly or fairly. In the end, the most despicable of the lot is Rudy. His words, although not meant to be mean-spirited, harrow with life-shattering damage. His nonchalance when a life is balancing between thriving and complete destitution is sickening. For Joy’s sake, Tony proves to remain a true friend post marriage and one of her defenders. Sadly, Jennifer Lawrence and Edgar Ramirez lack on-screen chemistry even in the days of courtship.

The first act consumed by quick banter and setup is followed by a disjointed, muddled middle. A bandaged hand, dream sequence within the soap opera, a remembrance of meeting her future husband, all served as a catharsis for her creative reawakening. It’s truly jarring. Perhaps something was omitted from the version that I saw.

Joy has two children – a boy and a girl. The boy is shoved to the wayside and disappears, serving no purpose. Grandma mentions that Joy would have never done “that play” without Tony. What play? Both trailers online contain numerous scenes that did not appear in the film. At two plus hours, I’m certain that I saw the completed film as IMDB states the film is 2 hours 4 minutes. How many hours will the director’s cut be?

The premise that dreams get further and further away as life’s vortex sucks you through the darkness of a black hole for your remaining days is reiterated excessively. A sad attempt at a metaphor for Joy’s life is when she reads a book about cicadas to her daughter. Then another dream sequence. Enough! We got it.

Once the film finds a strong definite direction, Jennifer Lawrence as the resolute woman who must battle her way through shysters and those that are on her side who still manage to cause her damage revives the film. The introduction of Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) and his business help guide the story as it reveals itself in a coherent manner.

JOY is an emotional roller coaster that is on the verge of leaving the audience with disdain for humanity and in a good fashion for a faux holiday film serves as an inspirational uplifting ode to the tenacity of the human spirit. So, be inspired and get uplifted at home when this title is available on BluRay, hopefully with all of those deleted scenes and an audio commentary with an explanation.

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