Saturday, January 2, 2016

Movie with Abe: Joy

Directed by David O. Russell
Released December 25, 2015

When a director continues to use the same actors over and over, at a certain point his or her films start to look alike. David O. Russell’s last two films garnered Oscar nominations for actress Jennifer Lawrence and actor Bradley Cooper. Robert De Niro appeared in “Silver Linings Playbook,” and now he, Lawrence, and Cooper are back together in Russell’s latest effort, which includes a handful of other talented performers in the ensemble. Fortunately, these collaborations are clearly worth it, since “Joy” is Russell’s best film yet, an impressive compliment given the generally agreed-upon quality of his work.

Lawrence stars as title character Joy, who, at a young age was told by her grandmother that she was destined for great things. Years later, her life is hardly organized, and every gain comes with some corresponding loss. Her nice but unmotivated ex-husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez) lives in her basement, while her bedbound mother Terry (Virginia Madsen) spends each day watching a soap opera on television. Her two children are traumatized by the occasional appearance of their grandfather Rudy (De Niro), whose temper is excessive and who obsesses over finding the right woman with whom to share his life, including by using a dating service for widows and widowers. Joy singlehandedly supports her family and never seems to manage to catch a break.

Trailers for the film, which have been playing in theaters for months, did a commendable job of not revealing much of the film’s plot beyond the above summary. Without revealing too much, Joy has an idea for a household invention that she resolves to bring to market, and the battle to get it made is not an easy one. “Joy” excels at capturing the intensity of the highs and lows in its protagonist’s life, gloriously celebrating her victories and wallowing with her in the utter devastation of her failures, making this so-called comedy often feel like something completely different.

Lawrence, who has already amassed three Oscar nominations in just five years, is certainly deserving of another shot at gold for this performance, one that is far from showy, creating a character who works hard and rarely sees the fruits of her labor yet still persists. De Niro, Madsen, Ramirez, and other members of the cast, including Cooper as a “friend in commerce,” Isabella Rossellini as Rudy’s new flame, Elisabeth Rohm as Joy’s spiteful half-sister, and Dascha Polano as Joy’s best friend Jackie, fit the rhythm of this film perfectly and complement each other wonderfully. The script is sharp and entertaining, and Russell’s direction helps his already enticing characters come alive even more in this involving, compelling portrait of one woman determined to get through the drudgery and make something of her life.


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