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Joy – Review


Release Date: 25 December 2015 [USA]
Director: David O. Russell
Writer: David O. Russell [Screenplay] - Annie Mumolo - David O. Russell [Story]
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence - Robert De Niro - Bradley Cooper - Édgar Ramírez



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Posted January 7, 2016 by

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Joy Review:

Joy was an inventive child, always encouraged by her grandmother to become a strong matriarch. But that doesn’t happen. Her parents divorce, not on good terms. She forgoes college to help her father’s business. She gets married and has two kids with a man who turns out a deadbeat. They get divorced. But he still lives in her basement. Along with her father, who got ditched by his third wife. Joy’s mother won’t get out of bed. Joy’s half-sister humiliates her constantly. Joy doesn’t know how she got here.

Her inventive streak strikes again and Joy becomes relentless in making this new dream a reality, always remembering her grandmother’s encouragement. The rest of her family does not exactly help.

The movie begins rather strangely with an abysmal daytime TV show playing out before you. It is Terri’s, Joy’s mother, only reason for getting up in the morning and it is also some subconscious influence on Joy’s nightmares. Ultimately its inclusion is confusing and disruptive on an otherwise gripping and energetic direction.

Russell transports you back to late 80’s/early 90’s Long Island. Terri’s tacky attire and terrible taste in TV, Joy’s boxy hatchback and the clunky Bakelite-style house phones which Rudy uses to frequent dating hotlines. The pre-internet era was truly horrifying with hindsight.

Anyone who cannot sympathise with Lawrence’s Joy is dead inside. John McClane never had a life this trying. Joy has a warrior’s endurance and a saint’s patience. A glittering star almost sucked to death by her black-hole family. Her trials age her years in minutes. When reading a book on insects to her daughter, Joy is baffled by one particular bug which burrows underground and remains there for 17 years. The connection to her own stifled spirit is evident (with the not-so-subtle nightmare sequences.)

When inspiration strikes Joy, watching her erupt from imprisoning routine is thrilling. Encouragement comes from precious few places. The stakes soar and setbacks come from everywhere. Yet Joy goes on and on and on. Not once does she scream with anger when it seems most appropriate. When dealing with her uber-bitch half-sister Peggy in one late, grating moment Joy speaks slowly and deliberately and with eyes like a white-hot furnace.

The family is exhausting, poisonous and infuriatingly difficult. At times they cease to be a group of individuals and morph into a chaotic, dizzying swarm of flies. Father Rudy is disruptive and ever disappointed in Joy, despite needing her to do his laundry and fix his accounts. Mother Terri is pathetic and hermetic. Half-Sister Peggy is a scathing, aggressively humiliating, f**king bitch (played brilliantly by Elizabeth Röhm). Trudy, Joy’s (fourth) step-mother is domineering and even more patronising than Joy’s father. Ex-husband Tony is a work-shy lingerer and yet still has Joy’s interests at heart. True encouragement thankfully comes from Joy’s daughter, her grandmother Mimi and best friend Jackie.

Despite having his name on the poster, Bradley Cooper turns up late as QVC executive Neil Walker. He talks straight, cold business and only sparks up when his sales start climbing. His rare excitement coupled with Joy’s amazement over her first piece of success provides some stark happiness.

David O. Russell continues his prolific run since 2010 with this engaging and sometimes surreal tale of trial and triumph. Again he coaxes fantastic performances from his cast and in the case of Lawrence, possibly her strongest yet. The irony is not lost, the titular emotion is hard to come by. Joy is a lovingly crafted carnival of frustration.


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Written by:


Michael Keyes
Silences Band
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