Sunday 21 February 2016

Joy ... No joy de vivre

IT'S important for viewers to connect with film characters, but writer-director David O. Russell's Joy, which urges women to live their dreams, lacks that vital characteristic.
  It's not necessarily due to Jennifer Lawrence, who received a Best Actress nomination for this role. She won a Best Actress Oscar for Russell's Silver Linings Playbook and received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for his American Hustle.

   She takes on this role with gusto, absorbing the spirit of inventor and patent holder Joy Mangano, on whom this film is loosely based and who serves as an executive producer.
   Lawrence shows viewers the hardships Joy had to undergo, and the disappointments and attacks she experienced before she made it big. The problem is, it's one problem too many.
   Russell puts Joy under siege from the word "go" and never lets her escape his clutches. Just when you think she's reached the pinnacle, down she goes again, plumbing the pits of despair.
   Lawrence is game for it, and it's to her credit that viewers maintain an interest in her travails.
The film is told from the viewpoint of Joy's granny, Mimi (Dianne Ladd), who tells of how her granddaughter loved to create things when she was young.
  It's around 1990, and Joy wears the pants in her house. She's stuck with two kids and an ex-husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez of Point Break) who lives in the basement. Her mum, Terry (Virginia Madsen), has been cooped up in her room watching soap operas for the past eight years.
Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) draws out her success.
   Soap operas play a minor role in Joy. They're a form of escapism for Terry, who yearns to live in their glamorous and superficial world.
   Joy's heavy-machinery operator father, Rudy (Robert De Niro), is kicked out by another ex-wife and he moves into the basement, setting up a potentially explosive situation with his former son-in-law.
   Joy has to manage everything in the household, including attempting to fix a plumbing problem in her mum's room. She works in an airline ticketing counter, subjecting her to abuse from customers.
  With a  life like that, it's a wonder that she hasn't run away from this mad household. But our Joy is made of sterner stuff, and she stumbles on the idea of a self-wringing mop (Miracle Mop), which she  hopes will sweep away her financial debts and open up new vistas for her family.
   Others in this madcap family are Jackie (Dascha Polanco), Joy's older half-sister, and Trudy (Isabella Rossellini), a rich widow who hits it off with Rudy.
   Just when you think Joy will achieve success, she's hit with another blow, this time from her family, who instil doubt in her instead of supporting her.
  Russell pours more trouble on her in the form of a patent dispute, which sees our poor hero crawling through an opening in a toilet wall to find out the truth about her invention.
Joy lets off some steam.
  Joy's journey to success sees her going through many ups and downs. She perseveres and learns from her mistakes, for example, she gets tougher on her dad after he makes a disastrous decision without informing her.
   On the parent dispute, Trudy merely says "That's business", as if that will absolve her of her calamitous decision to provide legal advice to Joy.
   Joy learns that she has to have her wits about her to survive in a tough business environment and in a man's world. She knows how to reflect a statement made by TV shopping executive Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) to her advantage.
    Russell portrays Joy as a tough cookie who learns from her mistakes and learns to rely only on herself to make it big in business, for example, the penultimate scene regarding the patent dispute. She knows she has to invent a new version of herself to achieve success.
   However, she is not helped by a cast that's uninteresting and a director overwhelming her with too many tasks to solve.
3 out of 5 stars
Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.


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