One consistent ray of joy through this film is Jennifer Lawrence’s astounding performance that carries on showing what a talent she is, but the story and directing choices leave you feeling less than that title feeling as a sort of biographical narrative leaves you uninterested.
Divorcee and mother Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) is no longer the young dreamer, after a strained marriage and still living at home with an odd family, she painfully comes across an idea that could change the face of cleaning. She gets help from dad Rudy (Robert De Niro) and even backing from booming TV sales show QVC executive Neil (Bradley Cooper) but she may have bitten off more than she can chew.
In my opinion the strongest part of this movie, aside from Lawrence herself, is the ending of the second act as we step into the realm of television shopping and see QVC potentially spark fame and fortune for Joy. The section is entertaining and paced well, the moment Joy returns to demonstrate her own invention is exciting and inspiring and Cooper’s driven knowing persona helps bring some much needed energy into what had previously been a quite laborious journey.
The annoying thing here is that this TV spotlight moment feels like a third act feature but we soon find this is not the case. The third act is in fact the troubling downfall that could face Joy as she stumbles over payments, patents and embezzlement cases, which immediately stalls the pace and makes us swerve back into almost dull land again, it’d be okay if the writing or directing made these climaxes and obstacles dramatic or interesting but they aren’t. The movie seems to be more focused on filling up the criteria of a pre-Academy panel and less on the potential of Joy as a character.
That’s the worst thing also, because though I am nowhere near a fan of David O. Russell, I do find interest in his usually well fleshed out characters but here, O. Russell seems to squander any passion out of his work as we flicker back and forth in time over a frankly annoying supporting family and a titular figure who seems way too passive to make us stand up and wish her the best. There is no engaging emotion in the story as it just feels like knock back after knock back, which is boring and uninventive if nothing else.
David O. Russell writes like this is some absurdist play, the theatrical elements are clear a lot of the time and though some pay off, the majority do not. The attempt at comedy falls flat on it’s face like any Adam Sandler flick and the way each member of the family act or speak is so annoying that it drives any reality or comic buzz out of the plot. The screening I saw was actually pretty busy and I didn’t hear one person laugh which for a clear attempt at comedy/drama is not a fantastic signal. Also, the whole soap opera interpolation and dream sequences are pointless and add nothing but more run time which feels long enough as it is.
The choice of music crops up as another weakening quality, it has some stirring moments and mostly within the QVC part but then when the score subsides, a whole tracklist of songs bellow in which make the scenes and therefore the film feel cheesy and cheap, they don’t overly work with the action presented and that’s why you notice them, they stand out as if Now That’s What I Call the Worst Playlist is being played over the speakers. I may be being somewhat harsh but it honestly doesn’t feel right within the film that could have been more poignant and inspiring.
Jennifer Lawrence is as mentioned from the beginning, the best part of this film. She shows a passion and emotional response to her surroundings and you see her getting smart and hands on with the world, it’s a powerful female character and Lawrence steals every scene. Bradley Cooper starts fresh and helps pick up the film as he swings into action helping both Joy and the narrative along, he does sink into the shadows after a while though. Robert De Niro is interesting to a degree as love hunting father and less than believing in his daughter’s abilities. It’s a big ensemble cast but they either feel like bit parts or annoying sidekicks that deter from the story we really want to see.
By a country mile, this is David O. Russell’s worst film of late and yet sadly I can see the awards season giving it fair props. It doesn’t feel funny, uplifting, sad or at all joyous.