Saturday 26 December 2015

Film Review: Joy

A terrific performance from Jennifer Lawrence injects sporadic bursts of brilliance into an otherwise run-of-the-mill effort from David O. Russell.

Based on the life of Joy Mangano, an American entrepreneur and struggling single mother, Joy is the third collaboration between Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and writer/director David O. Russell. It follows the titular inventor (Lawrence) and her dysfunctional extended family as they bicker and build a business empire from nothing after designing the original Miracle Mop.

A slightly misshapen first act sees Russell stumble through some ham-fisted flashbacks charting Joy’s formative years, and the cast suffer with some awkward reverse aging as a result. However, things come good later when home shopping network exec Neil Walker (Cooper) steps onto the scene and Joy begins to establish herself outside the constantly squabbling family home.

Regardless of whether you love or hate her kooky off-screen persona, it’s hard to deny that Lawrence is a performer that can act the pants off any movie she appears in. Here, the talented young Oscar winner really comes into her own and infuses this otherwise humdrum rags-to-riches tale with the same intensity and emotional range we saw in Silver Linings Playbook or American Hustle. With no shortage of memorable ‘Oscar reel’ moments, her assured performance keeps the film on course during its rockier, more unfocused detours. 

Cooper gives another wide-grinned performance that oozes charisma, but in all honesty his inclusion here feels pretty shoehorned in. With little to time to distinguish himself, nothing about his role tells us that it couldn't have been someone else in his shoes. Robert De Niro also stars as Joy's grumpy father; it's a role that De Niro could do in his sleep but he does bring some humour to the table during some spats with ex-wife Terry (Virginia Madsen) and new wife Trudy (Isabella Rossellini). Elisabeth Rohm gets the thankless job of playing Joy's bitter half-sister Peggy and the two compete in an interesting game on one-upmanship.

However, when all is said and done, Joy feels just a little too familiar and safe to become a truly memorable entry in Russell’s distinguished filmography; it may be based on a remarkable true story, but all the melodrama and legal wrangling builds to a conclusion that asks, “is this a story that needs to be told?” Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as resoundingly positive as you’d hope.

The Verdict: 7/10

A top notch performance from Lawrence gives Joy the legs to entertain, but by this point the partnership with Russell is starting to feel a little stilted. It's a obscure biography competently told with a lead performer giving it their best.

Joy opens in cinemas across Australia today

This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.


  1. I wanted to like this one more than I did. A major step down from David O. Russell's previous three films.

    1. I don't think it was that bad, but definitely not as good as his previous movies.

  2. I think I may wait for the DVD for this one. It just sounds kind of flat. I'm glad Lawrence gives a good performance though. She always does.

    1. I agree - I don't get the hate for Lawrence at all, she always acts the hell out of everything she's in. Well, expect X-Men. She always seems a bit bored in those haha.



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