Friday, 1 January 2016


One scrappy opportunist succeeds, another fails. The difference is sincerity: Joy Mangano had it, David O. Russell does not. His tribute to hard-working women, Joy, is so overly keen to imprint its importance upon its audience that it comes off as calculated from the first, ill-advised text card; Russell's general ineptitude ensures that all this calculation fails to pay off, and the overall sensation of watching Joy is equal parts disappointment and despair. It's a forced misfire, a poor attempt at fakery, and an opportunity undone by its scrappiness. Joy deserves better, and Jennifer Lawrence deserves better. You sense her investment in the integrity of her role, detecting a devotion to verisimilitude, no matter how unbecoming, that the rest of the film can't quite nail. Joy is cold, unyielding, out of her depth and resilient - an invaluable characteristic that doesn't merely maintain audience sympathy, it engenders it and builds it up to fleeting ecstatic highs that somehow feel all the higher for that they're almost wholly unearned. The guilty pleasure that one often experiences watching a David O. Russell film - that of succumbing to the artless messiness of his mise-en-scene and convincing oneself that it's as legitimate an approach as any other director's - is somewhat lost here, unfortunately. Russell tries to construct this feeling of deconstruction, over-editing in places and under-editing in others, jolting the film too quickly, pointlessly and unsuccessfully from drama to comedy, making Joy a decidedly difficult film to latch onto, despite Lawrence's efforts. It's also a shoddy piece of work, blighted by clunky ADR, terrible makeup, and the world's most immovable forehead, perched above Bradley Cooper's equally immovable cheeks.