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Review: Joy

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It’s all fun and games until one of you gets fake snow in your eye…

It’s all fun and games until one of you gets fake snow in your eye…

It’s hard not to fall in love with Jennifer Lawrence. In a sea of hilariously honest jokes, tripping over her toes and Norma Rae grandstanding on equal pay, it can be easy to forget what Lawrence’s day job is. When she acts, she blinds me, making it hard to consider her equally worthy colleagues. A vehicle like Joyhas been designed by writer/director David O. Russell to showcase Lawrence at her best, which seems to be when her character is in hot water.

Joy will be lumped into a trilogy with Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle due to 3 x 3 great performances from Lawrence. But there’s something different in the delivery, here. Written by Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids) with Russell, the film borders on art-house pretension, a story told simultaneously in flashback and flash-forward;  it is worthy Oscar-bait basted in soap-opera froth.  It might also be the first recorded time in history of a director asking his 25 year old lead to look and act a decade older. Joy’sexistence serves to highlight Hollywood’s ridiculous obsession with age. Why isn’t Russell asking Emily Blunt to play Joy? Let’s leave Lawrence to play young, fun and easy for once, she deserves it.

Joy concerns Joy Mangano, a harried mother of two with multiple jobs, a waster ex-husband and a crazy soap-watching mother. Joy invents a better-quality household mop that she knows could become a mass-market product and make her fortune. It is a rags-to-riches story that never quite gives the viewer riches, instead eking out the hardship as Joy battles multiple barriers to her success. Joy features a superlative castboasting Robert De Niro as Joy’s father, Isabella Rosellini as a semi-wicked stepmother and – in my favourite role of hers since SidewaysVirginia Madsen as Joy’s mother.

It’s a choppy experience. The cuts and set pieces could have been expanded and turned into a TV series, as the viewer is taken from weddings to funerals to business deals snap, snap, snap. This is the point, Joy pays homage to American soap opera, lending the film this unfinished look, when it – like Joy’s mop – is the consummate finished product.

I’m just not sure if I enjoyed it. There were parts that I laughed loudly to and Russell always hollows out an emotional centre, but this isn’t a linear movie, rather it’s a thousand snapshots of a person’s life stitched together by Tyler Durden on acid.

Bradley Cooper has no business being in this film, his role is almost cameo and he looks bored. But then there is no point to Joy except its tenuous basis on reality. To watch it is to revel in Mangano’s/Lawrence’s struggle, and even Russell and Lawrence seem frustrated by the end of Joy’s journey. With a little Once Upon A Time in America and a lot of Days Of Our Lives, Joy manages to be strange, pleasurable and irritating all at the same time.

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