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Film Review: 2015’s Joy

If she could have picked her family, Jennifer Lawrence's Joy would most likely have picked a different one. They are mean-spirited, rash, greedy and judgemental. Yet somehow it's the family dynamics that really make the film Joy standout. Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is steady and mostly without fault as she navigates the murky waters of a life half lived; she as the single mother working pay check to pay check with her talents as an inventor of household items yet to be discovered.

Living with her mother, grandmother, two children, ex-husband and an unashamedly critical father played to perfection by Robert DeNiro, Joy has her work cut out for her. Yet somehow, the story is able to stay small, and had it not been on the big screen with so many Hollywood heavyweights - Bradley Cooper plays the opportunistic head of newly acquired channel QVC - Joy might not have been out of place on a Netflix DVD-to-watch-on-Sunday list, or in the discount aisle of ‘Mildly Uplifting Films’.

It is by no means without merit however, owing to the quirky and sometimes hilarious intervals from Joy's agoraphobic, daytime TV-soap obsessed mother played by Virginia Madsen. And even Joy's Spanish ex-husband as her biggest cheerleader and aspiring singer played by Édgar Ramírez, gives the film the heart that at times it so desperately needs. Without these two supporting characters however, the overwhelming emotion of the film would have been frustration at Joy's constant struggle and fight to have her voice heard.

Then again, the portrayal of frustration may well have been the intention of the film, but the hardships felt like they went on for so long that any small successes for characters ended up feeling slightly underwhelming in the grand scheme of things.

Director David O. Russell’s other films, such as Silver Linings Playbook (also starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) had the kind of uplift and comedy that unfortunately Joy had little of. Instead, the joy it contained came with large helpings of irony, and held a very accurate mirror up to reality. However the accuracy of family life as portrayed in Joy so soon after Christmas, was not quite the spirit lifter this cinema goer was expecting.

Written by Maame Blue


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