February 22, 2016
"Joy" is yet another collaboration of writer/director David O. Russell with two of his favorite actors: Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. First, they got together on "Silver Linings Playbook" in 2012, then again in "American Hustle" in 2013. Both of these projects were showered with Oscar nominations, 8 for "Playbook" and 10 for "Hustle", both with nods for Russell, Lawrence and Cooper. Jennifer Lawrence won the Oscar for Best Lead Actress in "Playbook".
In contrast, the Oscar prospects of Russell's newest film "Joy" have been limited to just one nomination-- Jennifer Lawrence for Best Lead Actress. Gone was his remarkable achievement of earning nominations in all four acting categories as well as in the top five categories achieved by "Playbook" and "Hustle". This dearth of nominations warned me that I should not really expect too much for this one, despite the fine pedigree it possessed.
Joy is a big dreamer since she was a little girl. However, her real life is anything but a dream as she remained mired in poverty, a failed marriage and divorced parents. One day, she gets an inspiration to invent a self-wringing mop. Getting her idea off the ground though was a nightmarish maze of contracts and debts. Her fortunes seemed to turn though when she gets the opportunity to market her mop on the home tv shopping network. Could this be Joy's way out of the deep hole she has been in her whole adult life?
Jennifer Lawrence is still the best aspect of this film, and really did her best to lift and carry this film through. However she unfortunately had to contend with such limiting and joyless material. Bradley Cooper played Neil Walker, a home TV shopping executive who took a chance on Joy's idea. However, the way their screen partnership here was written in a way that fails to take advantage of their proven chemistry with each other.
Robert de Niro played yet another eccentric dad Rudy in another typical performance. He was competent as could be expected, but not outstanding. The charmless character of the half-sister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm) was especially annoying, as was the aimlessly weird characterization of Joy's mother Terry (Virginia Madsen). Having Diane Ladd to play Joy's grandmother was totally wasted.
At least Isabella Rosselini provided some strength of character as Trudy, Rudy's wealthy girlfriend and Joy's investor. Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez played Joy's ex-husband and best friend Tony. Too bad we do not really get to know either of these two characters better. They could have dropped some unnecessarily long scenes to spend more time on these two more interesting characters.
The main problem of this film was that it revolved around the lead character's problem about her innovative MOP! You really feel the stretching done to make such a simple plot into its two-hour running time. There were so many subplots inserted in to prolong and complicate matters. The slowness of the build-up suddenly switched into overdrive towards the end. The final twenty minutes crammed in so many other matters in such a haphazardly rapid manner, rushing through her actual financial ascent.
The direction of Russell was not so astute this time, resulting in an uncharacteristically messy, uninspirational production. 5/10.