Joy (2015)

Director:  David O. Russell
Cast:  Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper
Plot:  Joy is the story of the title character, who rose to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty.

Genre:  Comedy / Drama
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Leading Actress
Runtime:  124min
Rating:  PG13 for brief strong language.
Distributor:  20th Century Fox

Guest Review by David Lee
As a longtime fan of David O. Russell, having watched almost every single film of his filmography from Flirting with Disaster and Three Kings, to the recent string of critical hits with The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, Joy in my opinion is his magnum opus, a film in all its complexity an absolute delight to watch from beginning to end.

Assembling a familiar cast that consists of Jennifer Lawrence playing the title character, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, it is no wonder fans and audiences are reading it as a follow up sequel to the successful Silver Linings PlaybookJoy is really about a woman’s struggles to exert her independence, fighting against all odds for what she wants and deserves in life.  In short, it’s a feminist movie, and could even be interpreted as a self-empowerment wakeup call to the soul.

The acting pedigree is top notch, especially from veterans like De Niro, Virginia Madsen Dianne Ladd, and Isabella Rossellini, and each supporting player is given ample material to flesh out their own back stories which contribute to better understanding of the family dynamics.  The tone of the film shifts from tragedy to comedy, surrealism to realism effortlessly at the snap of the finger, without feeling jarring or disjointed at any point.

Based loosely on the true story of inventor and entrepreneur Joy Magano, Russell managed to expand the world of Joy to become a social commentary on America, mass media and capitalism, yet never once losing track of her inner sense of being and character development.  

Jennifer Lawrence has created so much empathy for her character that the audience will be rooting for Joy at every turn and setback that she faces.  Every time she trips and falls, we want her to climb back up again and continue the fight.  Many self-made man/woman can certainly relate to what she has been through, especially in the harsh and cruel world of business.

This rags-to-riches story may come across as predictable, cliché and even dull for many critics, and the film has been largely ignored in the awards season, picking up just two nominations at the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture Comedy and Best Actress for Jennifer Lawrence. 

While it is unlikely to match the commercial success of Silver Linings Playbook, only time will tell as to whether this underrated gem of a film, with all its humanity and compassion, plus insights into the American psyche, will become one of David O. Russell’s most-loved classics in years to come.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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