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David O. Russell was brave with this film. His usual approach to film-making involves a brash delivery – think American Hustle or Silver Linings Playbook. The creator of additional films such as The Fighter and I Heart Huckabees embodies a poignant style of which audiences have come to appreciate. His works entangle many underlining parts, all moving to the beat of their own drum. However, these parts are integral to the film functioning as a whole. With his latest film, Joy, Russell appears to peel away at his artistic flower to reveal a more vulnerable core. His true appreciation for the underlying story (and of his actor’s abilities) allows for a softer approach. Don’t worry – Russell fans are still given the zany and consistently shifting dynamic and are again blessed with the same cast of characters (Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence all reappear in this film). However, within Joy, Russell purposefully marches out on an island and presents in more vulnerable state. Audiences will find connectivity due to its remarkable story-line and its unrefined approach. However, some of this stylistic tone was lost within its delivery. I often found myself wandering away from the film to revel in the real-life Joy Mangano and how her story came to be – which may have been Russell’s intent. The film’s overall effectiveness is lessened as Russell became more entangled within the overall message that the film inspires to tell. Audiences are left with deviation from his peculiar storytelling ability that made his artistic approach unique. While this may repent some audiences, this story is an inspiration to us all and should be told across all levels of societal pressures. In that aspect alone, it is worth a watch.
Joy follows the true story of a young woman, Joy Mangano, who overcomes waves of adversity to follow her dreams in becoming a matriarch for her family. Joy, played by the always luminescent Jennifer Lawrence, is an innovator. Her imaginative sense extends far beyond her physical confides. Unfortunately for Joy, her surrounding environment is not conducive for her innovative abilities. Her family and her town dynamic prides itself on blue-collar work. Lesser realities are reinforced; and those who stray away from the commonalities are shunned. As a result, Joy’s encasing is greatly diminished. Life begins to take over – as she “wakes up” she finds herself have not moved from her childhood. She lives in the same house with her entire family; her dreams not ever being achieved. That is until one day, where Joy’s true cognitive sense and her imaginative sense finally meet.
Joy finally places her imagination into her reality. An invention comes to her – a self-wringing mop! She spends an afternoon developing the blueprints with her daughter and a set of colored pencils. The idea is presented to a potential investor for financial backing. She then utilizes her father’s auto body shop to materialize her idea. It’s a family affair, yet this idea is all her own. Joy does not yet fully comprehend that these moments dawn as the turning point in her life. But what blooms, is purely remarkable.
Joy embodies a new approach from director David O. Russell. This film is more sincere, although it may leave the audience a bit under-appreciated. The end product feels somewhat unrefined; and while it may lead to a more raw and a more relatable delivery, some Russell fans may feel less enthused. What we are left with is the story alone – and it’s a good one. Again, this might have been a purposeful approach by Russell, in which he allowed the unbelievable story to speak through the work of the as equally achieving actors. However, the drawbacks in such a delivery tend to weigh this film down and not place it on the same level as its predecessors. Regardless, the film is worth a viewing – Virginia Madsen’s performance alone is so entertaining. From a societal level, this is a story that should be told. Appreciate the film for what it is; but some will have to overlook as to what it could have been.