I will defend Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle until the day I die. I really will. They're great movies that I've rewatched multiple times. When it comes to Joy, I wasn't quite as excited for it as I was hoping. Sure, it looked good, but nothing about it screamed great. It screamed Oscar's, though, that's for sure. As the film got closer, my anticipation rose, and then I saw the film yesterday..... and I have to say I'm disappointed. My expectations weren't even through the roof and I was disappointed. Joy, unfortunately, is far from a good movie.
Joy, as the title suggests, follows the (mildly) true story of Joy (Jennifer Lawrence). She's a divorced mother of two, her ex husband (Édgar Remírez) living in her basement and helping to look after their kids. Sharing her basement is her father, Rudy (Robert DeNiro), who's unsuccessfully running his own business while also trying to fall in love. With the addition of her mother (Virginia Madsen) and grandmother (Diane Ladd), Joy's house is more chaotic than it was when she was a child, and she's just about had enough. She decides to do something to support her family, and so she invents something. She invents a mop, and for the rest of the film we get to follow her as she tries to make a name for herself, selling the mop and getting out of debt.
American Hustle, the last film to be directed by David O. Russell, opens with a set of title cards that managed to get a laugh from most of the people watching the film. It opened with "some of this actually happened," which is a joke about the fact that O. Russell took aspects of the true story that film is based on and fictionalised them into an original and entertaining movie with a story that isn't all over the place. He does something very similar at the start of Joy, and it was from this moment where I started to get a little bit worried about this film.
It wasn't too long before my doubts were proven right as the first hour of this movie is excruciatingly dull. It's weird and chaotic, all these events happening that just aren't that interesting. The film tries to tell us as much of Joy's life as it can, but it's a mess, flashing forwards and backwards without any cohesion and providing a narration that just doesn't work. There's this one scene in particular that's a prolonged montage of Joy's life and it tells us absolutely nothing we didn't already know about her character. We get it. She got married. Her childhood was frustrating. Her dad has issues. This was all told to us in the first ten minutes of the movie. There's no need to flash back in time to see it all unfold.
There was a point in this movie where it got so excruciatingly painful that I nearly walked out. It was about halfway through and I thought to myself 'this is the worst film I have seen all year.' With a full bladder, I prepared myself to stand up and leave. But I didn't. I stayed. Something compelled me to stay. Moments later, Bradley Cooper appeared on screen. His character isn't all that developed, he doesn't get much screen time and he doesn't look quite as interested as he does in other movies, but his appearance allowed for the pace to drastically pick up. He didn't make the film good, but he made it better.
It's this second half that I could actually bare. More things start to happen, characters aren't forced into the film for the sake of forcing characters into the film and the film actually takes a moment or two to stop frantically shoving information down our throats. It starts to tell a story. Not a very interesting one, but I guess it still counts as a story. It's a story about mops. Joy is a two hour long movie about mops. I honestly couldn't be less interested in it if I tried, although I was trying to do the opposite. I was trying to like it. I couldn't.
Jennifer Lawrence hit her big break with the Hunger Games, and many have said that now that Mockingjay is over, her career is going to be going on a downhill slope. Personally, I'll disagree. The Oscar winning actress is just getting started, her performances getting better and better as time goes by. Her Hunger Games performances are great, but her David O. Russell performances are something else entirely. This is their third collaboration and if he can keep getting performances like this out of her, I never want them to stop.
As for the rest of the cast, they're hit and miss. Robert DeNiro is amazing, but everyone else falls flat, excluding the previously mentioned Bradley Cooper. Édgar Remírez manages to display two emotions, Virginia Madsen is so fake that she's just unlikeable and Isabella Rossellini.... I don't even know. She's fine, I guess. So is Madsen, technically. Maybe it's their characters that are bringing the film down. Maybe their performances are fine, but it's David O. Russell's disjointed script that's taking away from just how good they are.
To sum up, I really tried to like Joy, but i just couldn't. It's a disjointed, tedious and excruciatingly dull movie with an unbearable first half and an okay second half. There's no denying it's a good film on a technical scale, but I was bored out of my mind.