Director David O. Russell has had great success with teaming up Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper with their previous films American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook. Now they are looking for the trifecta with their latest film Joy, but does it bring the same impact the previous films did or will it be a product you just can’t get behind?
Joy follows the true story of Joy Mangano and her Italian-American family across four generations centered on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty by inventing the Miracle Mop and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Once again they have put together a great supporting cast as well including Edgar Ramirez, Virginia Madsen, Donna Mills, Dascha Polanco, Isabella Rossellini, and Melissa Rivers. Once again this dynamic team have put together an engaging film with a unique vision. This time around is not quite as overall solid as the previous films, but they still deliver a story and performances that are engaging. Lawrence is as good as ever here bringing the vulnerability and strength needed for this story to be told. The only thing that doesn’t quite work are the moments later in her life trying to believe she is so much older than she is. It doesn’t hurt the film as a whole, but does take you a bit out of the story. Cooper looks to be having a blast in his small but important role in the film. The chemistry between he and Lawrence is as great as ever and helps to keep the story flowing to perfection when they are together.
Of all of the cast DeNiro really stands out as almost the bad guy here in some respects just in his delivery of hard-nosed parenting and overall life decisions. There is some great banter between himself, Lawrence and Virginia Madsen that might remind some of the insanity of their own families. The real surprise here was the story itself as the trailers never really told much about it. That actually was a smart decision as once you realize that it is based on a true story and see some the real life events unfold depending on your age you might remember living through it. This is a compelling story of family and determination, but the way the story is laid out may throw some off. It’s far from a bad thing, but Russell takes some interesting directions in telling the story that might frustrate some hoping for the traditional straight forward method of storytelling. Some of the best moments feature bizarre moments that add to the story including Melissa Rivers in a small role playing her iconic mother Joan.
In the end this is yet another home run for this team that while it might work for everyone will no doubt find its audience. There is no doubt that there is a good chance that some of the performances will likely be recognized come award season and rightly so. In a world where the theaters are just filled with sequels and big budget blockbusters it is great to see films like this come along that still can hold its own. If you have enjoyed their previous collaboration then give this one a try as well.