Flash Reviews are quick (under 500 words), but packed with nerdy goodness.
Despite early missteps, once JOY gets going you don’t want it to end. Jennifer Lawrence wins you over with an incredible underdog hero who overcomes countless obstacles to follow her dreams and provide for her family. This is the inspiring true story of an inventor with balls of steel.
David O. Russell is always a bold storyteller, so it’s no surprise he breaks conventions with JOY. While the flashbacks, dream sequences, and other surreal elements (the soap opera) are mostly out of place and don’t work so well, the ultimate payoff at a cemetery succeeds rather well – thus requiring some setup. That said, the earlier sequences are too jarring and could have been embellished better, perhaps with more restraint.
Lawrence is totally captivating in the lead role, arcing from the irony of the movie’s title, to championing the true meaning of JOY. This hard-working single mom uses every advantage she has. Russell uses subtle hints to convey Joy’s photographic memory and stead-fast determination without ever being too on-the-nose.
By the emotional finale, we are really rooting for Joy to succeed. Diagnosed as a “genius unnoticed” and an “under-achiever” only spurs her on. Joy stays true to herself, even under pressure.
The rest of the cast supports Lawrence rather well. Cooper’s character plays an important role in the business side of Joy’s life. He runs a popular Home Shopping Network where our “house-wife” pitches her invention. What could have been a sleazy character for Cooper, is actually quite layered by the end of his story, and memorable despite limited screen-time.
Family is a big part of JOY. A lot of the laughs come from the estranged relationships in her life. Her household is buzzing with so much activity, she never gets a moment to herself. Her divorced parents live under the same roof as her children and her divorced husband. Robert De Niro (as Joy’s father) has a complicated character who is conversely supportive and constrictive.
A clever narration from Joy’s grandmother satisfies on an emotional level, especially by the end. This very inspiring tale reminds us that good people can finish on top, even in a corrupt business world… it’s just a tremendous challenge. As the “world destroys opportunities”, Joy fights against it to become a legend in her industry. Inspired by her own Rosebud (handmade paper inventions from childhood), JOY is like ERIN BROKOVICH meets CITIZEN KANE.
While strong performances will be the talk of the town, the way you feel when the story ends is what really matters. Powerful themes emphasize that dreams can come true, making this a great film to watch during the holidays. With an acidic hero who can spit venom when needed, JOY is sure to avoid being cheesy while inspiring us with a very moving true story.
* A note on the / Rating System (pink = half) *
///// WORTH BUYING – ///// THEATER – ///// RENTAL – ///// NETFLIX – ///// SLIP ON THROUGH
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