Joy

 

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Following the success of 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper reunite with writer/director David O. Russell. 

 

For a film to tell the story of a successful business woman may make it an uncharacteristic piece of cinema but, fifteen years having passed since Erin Brockovich came to our screens, it seems apt to build another movie around the true story of a female achiever. Even so, news of Joy, the latest film written and directed by David O. Russell, aroused scepticism, but that was because it was centred on Joy Mangano who found fame by inventing a miracle mop, one to outclass all previous mops. This screen treatment of Joy’s story does concentrate on events surrounding the invention and promotion of the mop rather than on her subsequent achievements in business, but that in itself involves a woman needing to assert herself, finding the strength to achieve her dream and fighting those who set out to rob her of what was rightfully hers. Consequently, if there is indeed something that sounds slightly ludicrous in having a movie centred on the creation of a new mop for the home, the context provides quite enough valid material to provide engaging viewing for a couple of hours.

 
If Joy is less satisfying than it should be, this is ironically due to the approach adopted by Russell in his capacity as writer. There is an unexpected stylised opening filmed in black and white which proves to link to a TV soap drama watched by Joy’s mother, but this is acceptable as a separate and distinct prologue indicating that the film will be about the need for women to be strong. However, what follows is an initial treatment of real events made to feel artificial due to further use of the soap opera, stylised dreams and flashbacks, an uncertain blend of comedy and drama and an over-persistent use of pop songs on the soundtrack that is very self-conscious. Struggling to get out is a tale of a woman seeking self-determination despite family pressures and this tale needed none of the sometimes eccentric elaboration that Russell has given it.

  

 Joy

 Pride and Joy Mangano: Jennifer Lawrence

 

The one gain that results from these misjudgements comes in the film’s more conventional second half when two or three scenes that might in a more normal context seem over-contrived get by through being less stylised than the artificiality present earlier. But even then Russell can’t resist one more eccentricity when we discover that the film is being narrated by someone who is dead. If irritation yields to a fair amount of enjoyment, it is due to the excellent photography and to the quality of the performances, especially those by the splendid Jennifer Lawrence and by players in two subsidiary roles, Isabella Rossellini and Bradley Cooper. Those interested in flavoursome trivia may like to note that in Joy the role of Joan Rivers is taken by her daughter Melissa.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON      

  

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Édgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Elisabeth Röhm, Dascha Polanco, Melissa Rivers, Jimmy Jean-Louis.

  

Dir David O. Russell, Pro John Davis, Megan Ellison and David O. Russell, Screenplay David O. Russell, from a story by Annie Mumolo and David O. Russell, Ph Linus Sandgren, Pro Des Judy Becker, Ed Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Tom Cross and Christopher Tellefsen, Music David Campbell and West Dylan Thordson, Costumes Michael Wilkinson.

 

Annapurna Pictures/Davis Entertainment/Fox 2000 Pictures-20th Century Fox.
124 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 1 January 2016. Cert. 12A.