Friday, July 1, 2016

Joy (2015) ***

Joy may be David O. Russell's own unique take on The Godfather. The premise of the film asks whether a woman can survive in the dog eat dog world of business. Loosely based on the life of Home Shopping entrepreneur Joy Mangano, Jennifer Lawrence stars as "Joy." Upon further research I discovered the script also took inspiration from the lives of other notable women who succeeded in the business world.

Joy's overbearing father played by Robert De Niro continually undermines and condescends to her at every given opportunity.  A divorced mother, Joy works menial jobs and seems to be going nowhere in her life. One day she gets the idea of building a mop that can be sopped automatically.  Her ex-husband gets her an audition with a fledgling home shopping network called QVC. Bradley Cooper plays the founder of QVC and becomes a mentor to Joy. In his few scenes Cooper leaves a lasting impression, although they feel like a separate movie.

Russell's flamboyant direction never gets boring, just exhausting.  His use of overlapping dialogue channels a heightened realism, much in the style of Robert Altman and the screwball comedies of the 1930s. Obviously, Russell loves actors and puts character development above story. I can get behind that.

Lawrence carries the film well enough in her third collaboration with Russell. I hope she branches out and works with other directors - she seems a bit weary by the end of the film. 

Joy, an old fashioned rags to riches story, is well worth seeing. A movie about actual real people seems more and more a rarity these days.  Like American Hustle, a movie I did not like at first, Russell's films tend to improve with each viewing.  He's really drawn to characters who use cunning and intelligence to survive in a hostile world, a mirror of being a director in Hollywood? Or is there an undercurrent of cynicism present?

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