There's a moment in Joy when Bradley Cooper's character takes the titular character to his television studio and describes it as a place where the ordinary meets the extraordinary. I'd say that's a pretty good metaphor for the film -- just based on the premise, the story of the woman who invented the Miracle Mop doesn't leap out as an especially noteworthy subject for the biopic treatment. And yet, in the hands of a singular talent like David O. Russell, this material leaps to life in a manner that's energetic, laugh-out-loud funny, and deeply human.
I have to say, I really think the trailers for this movie have done a terrible job marketing it -- they make the movie seem like an oddball curio, with emphasis on Jennifer Lawrence wielding a gun, when in actuality, the film is a total crowd-pleaser that I imagine could have pretty wide appeal. Joy is a completely endearing protagonist, a single mom trying to deal with her increasingly dysfunctional family, who yearns for something more out of life, and triumphs due to the pluckiness of her spirit, her unwillingness to give up, and her generosity toward those around her. This is perhaps the most old-fashioned movie star turn of Jennifer Lawrence's young career, and the actress completely carries the film with a ton of personality and charisma. She's yet another strong Best Actress candidate in an increasingly stacked field this year. Of the supporting cast, I rate Cooper and Rossellini the standouts, though the degree to which Lawrence dominates the film really turns everyone else into simply the ensemble that surrounds her, more impressive as a unit rather than as individual performances.
But the true star here may be David O. Russell, who delivers in what we've come to expect as his usual register -- lots of chaotic scenes of actors bouncing off one another, precisely choreographed camera moves, an anarchic sense of humor -- but who uses his stylistic excess as the perfect counterpoint to his triumph-of-the-human-spirit storyline. In much the same way he made Silver Linings Playbook feel far grittier than your standard romantic comedy, here too does he take a rags-to-riches story and find all sorts of odd and colorful edges to bring out along the way. I wouldn't want to reduce the movie to being about only one thing -- there's simply far too much going on here for that -- but if it has a main idea, it's a film about how childhood dreams have to become adult realities, but with enough chutzpah one can still find a kind of happiness (or, rather, joy) along the way. It's certainly an uplifting message, and Joy is an uplifting movie, but far from a simplistic or saccharine one.
I'd wondered if Joy delivered, if Russell and the movie might emerge as some kind of Oscar favorite simply due to momentum based on the director's recent batting average. And after seeing it, I don't know if it will necessarily be the one to leap ahead in the awards race -- it's definitely a more quirky effort than those that typically win Picture/Director. But as to the more immediate question -- will Joy even be a part of the awards race? -- I'd say that it very likely will. As both another triumph for David O. Russell, and perhaps the movie that caps Lawrence's staggering ascendance to stardom, I think there will be a lot of enthusiasm for Joy this holiday season.
Last edited by The Original BJ
on Tue Dec 01, 2015 1:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.