2016 / Director. David O Russell.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
JOY is NOT a remake of the 1977 pornographic film about a female rapist (thank heavens) however it does does share that whole female empowerment thing.... so there's that!
It is a loose recollection of the true story of Joy Mangano, who became a powerful entrepreneur following her invention of the Miracle Mop. It was by no means the overnight success that headlines would tout it, and this new film from David O Russell pastes together a collage of her life and follows the hardships that came with bringing her product to market.
It is an odd film, but it is a hypnotic and inspiring one. The first half is structured in a chaotic and patchy way that presents Joy in a stifling home environment surrounded by an unstable family who all depend on her. From an agoraphobic mother to an irrational father, and a jealous sister... everyone in her life provides an obstruction and with no business smarts or financial stability she perseveres with a steely determination to overcome monumental odds.
Jennifer Lawrence is magnificent. Aways an impeccable actress, she has outdone herself this time around. Her investment in this character is full-hearted and she has delivered one of her most convincing performances to date. This Joy-ride (sorry) we go take with her, as an audience, is a volatile one with a gamut of emotions. Despite the frustration of every other character being painfully annoying, Joy lights up the screen and I found myself experiencing all of her emotions. Her highs and lows. Heartbreaks and elations. It's a tour de-force performance from Lawrence that is encapsulated in the film's very title.
David O Russell is a filmmaker who seems to be constantly evolving, and while his recent films are less edgy and provocative to those from the 90s, he is exploring deeper territories with much more maturity and constraint. His collaboration with Lawrence is an alliance that obviously serves both of them sell and hopefully it will endure for years to come.
The film does suffer a few shortcomings along the way, such as an unnecessary narration and a few impetuous character resolutions, but such things are inconsequential. They don't bring the film down and are easily overlooked in favour of excellent performances and compelling storytelling. The way in which O Russell has taken a typical rags-to-riches story and fleshed it out with some unconventional structural techniques makes it a refreshing movie-going experience. I wonder how many viewers he lost throughout the first act, with his intentionally disorderly plot device? Just as Joy persevered through her most trying times, the viewer is asked to take that journey with her and is made to wade through a series of anarchic circumstances. It's a cleverly manipulative piece of filmmaking that is very rewarding.