I haven’t really been a fan of David O Russel’s past work. Silver Linings Playbook felt somewhat contrived, and I actually never saw American Hustle. I know many groaned when they saw how similar this was (gee, a stylish dramedy from David O Russel starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro? Whoda thunk it?) but I was mostly sold on the interesting advertisements and the fact that I have a moviepass subscription now and didn’t have to pay for it.
Joy isn’t great. It’s at best, above average. But it has enough stylish flair and solid performances to make me care about the story how the mop was created, and I feel like that’s worth something.
Joy is a based on a true story kinda deal. It’s (loosely) based on the life of Joy Mangano, creator of the Miracle Mop and the HSN shopping network. Now, that admittedly doesn’t sound fascinating, but it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be. Joy is a low stakes, tightly knit story that only takes place in a few buildings. It’s more low key than the bigger ensemble films from American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, yet ironically cost far more than both of those films. To be totally honest, I don’t really know what that $60M went towards (other than the stars massive salaries, of course) but it still felt much more small scale than many may have expected it to.
One interesting key was the films seemingly intentional choice of leaving Joy’s last name out of the entire film. Considering its a biopic, that would be an odd choice, but it seems like that may have been a way to subtley imply that this is not meant to be a biopic, but rather a loosely based adaptation of someone’s life.
As you may have expected, Jennifer Lawrence was the star of the show. De Niro and Cooper didn’t give particuarly bad performances, but they got really no meaningful material to work with, unlike O Russel’s past two collaborations.
One aspect of the film that helped to add a bit of personality was the inclusion of scenes meant to look as though they were shot on 8mm film, shaky-cam and all. It really fit the 60s and 70s mood and helped to add to the atmosphere, but it never felt forced. They showed up maybe 3-4 times at the beginning and then are never seen again. It also never explicitly stated a date in which the scene was taken place, meaning it avoided one of my biggest pet peeves for films that take place in certain time periods. Instead, it avoids this by simply showing the passage of time not only through characters, but through the environments in which the story takes place.
So overall, there isn’t a ton to say about this. It’s entertaining, well produced, sleek, and solid. It tells a slow, low stakes but interesting story in a unique and stylish way. It may not really be a legitimate awards contendor, but it’s a solid crowdpleaser that does what it needs to do.