Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and the rest of the team behind 'Silver Linings Playbook'… what could go wrong?
As it turns out, a lot. As one fellow screening attendee put it, if JLaw hadn’t been in 'Joy', this film would have been excruciating. Her presence brings the pain factor from an 9 down to about a 7. Let me explain why.
‘Joy’ follows the journey of the titular character from struggling middle-class mother of two to wealthy entrepreneur. She invents a mop (designed, as all those infomercial products are, to solve a problem that should never have existed in the first place) and tries to make some money from it. That’s about it. There’s a lot of family angst in there, and the occasional attempt at motivational inspiration, but mostly it’s just a lot of pain.
The supporting cast including Robert De Nero, Virginia Madsen and Isabella Rossellini should have been amazing, but mostly falls flat. Through no fault of the actors, their characters are one-dimensional and completely un-relatable. This is for a very simple reason – the writers spent so much time making them antagonists for Joy that they forgot that these characters are people too. The only person the audience is meant to form any sort of emotional connection to is Joy herself, but poor old Lawrence seems to spend so much time confused as to what is going on for her character that her performance at times feels like she’s just phoning it in. It’s rather disappointing.
The narration from Joy’s grandmother is simply torture, completely unnecessary and at times downright annoying (though still not as bad as the dog in 'Love the Coopers'). There are scenes that would have been really good, except for some unfathomable reason, director David O’Russell chose to cut them with flashbacks or forwards, and completely destroy the flow and movement of the story. Thankfully there’s never any confusion as to which are forward or back, but again, these additions are unnecessary.
Through no fault of the actors, their characters are one-dimensional and completely un-relatable.
Frankly, Lawrence is the only reason to see this film. Cooper and 'Orange is the New Black's' Dascha Polanco help a bit there too, but have barely any screen time. I’ve tried to think of any other positive factors, but just about anything that should have been good gets spoiled. For example, parallels are drawn between a soap opera Joy’s mother likes to watch and their lives, but this is handled so badly that it quickly becomes a negative. As does the heavy-handed social commentary on equality and class prejudice.
Joy’s story should have been inspiring. Here was a woman who took an idea and built a commercial empire on it, despite her family’s repeated attempts to destroy her both emotionally and financially. And yet, it’s just damned uncomfortable, and not in an artistic thought-provoking way.