It’s not difficult to see what David Russell is working toward in Joy, his latest effort that opens Christmas Day. But even for Russell, a thrice Oscar-nominated director, not everything turns out as planned – especially in this case.
Using what’s become his stock cast – Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro – he attempts to create a contemporary fairy tale, using one woman’s hard-luck story and eventual success as a template. The problem: Joy displays more mess than whimsy. It’s charmless and lacks basic mirth, this despite a cast that would make most other directors envious.
Lawrence portrays the title character, a divorced mother who represents the sole source of support for most of her family. Her mother Mimi (Virginia Madsen) occupies one bedroom where her pet pooch, doing little more than taking in soap operas for most of the day be the live or on videotape.
She has her children, whom she adores. Her ex-husband occupies a corner in her basement and she supports this household working as a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines.
This get further complicated when her unlucky at love father Rudy (DeNiro) gets kicked out by his current girlfriend and takes up residence in the other corner of the basement with his former son-in-law, whom he cannot stand.
A woman could use a break, no? Joy, who is a known idea person in her family, creates her own. After cutting herself while trying to clean up red wine and broken glass, she’s inspired to design a mop that can be wrung out without touching the mop head.
Rudy recognizes that his daughter may have finally hit upon something and takes the idea to his latest love interest, Trudy (Isabella Rossellini), a wealthy widow who agrees to finance the mop’s development. The rest of Joy details her rapid rise in the world of cable television’s home shopping and how it affects hers and her family’s respective lives.
No one ever expects to not like a Russell film – least of all one with this cast, but despite good intentions, Joy proves to be a difficult movie to get through. It its case grand ambition goes awry.
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language
Running time: 124 minutes
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