One of the year’s most anticipated films, Joy is sure to sweep the nomination floor this coming winter. Gemma Pecorini Goodall reviews…
When I was lucky enough to get tickets to an advanced screening of David O. Russell’s (American Hustle, Silver Lining’s Playbook, The Fighter) latest film Joy I jumped at the chance to see one of the year’s most anticipated films. Starring the trio of actors Russell has become synonymous with in recent years, Joy is his latest tour de force is everything I hope it would be and more.
Before the film even starts, the director tells the audience that the film is ‘inspired by real stories of daring women’ which immediately sucks me in since, in my opinion, Russell is one of the few male screenwriters and directors who construct beautifully different and powerful female characters. Joy tells the story of Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) a single mother who is stranded in a house full of strong, adversary characters including her misandrist, soap-opera obsessed mother (Virginia Madsen), her ex-husband and aspiring singer Tony (Edgar Ramirez), her absentee father Rudy (Robert De Niro), her children, and her loving grandmother (Diane Ladd) who plays the film’s narrator. Having been a creative child and an aspiring inventor, Joy had to put her life on hold after having children, dedicating her life to her family and putting her dreams on the backburner. When Joy invents a new self-wringing mop she puts everything on the line to prove to herself and her family that she can accomplish what she sets out to do. On her journey she meets Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), the director of the Home Shopping Network who gives her the chance to sell her mops on television.
Joy is without doubt a film about female empowerment and the struggle of women in a world dominated by men. Each of the female characters constructed by Russell and Annie Mumolo differ enormously from one another and encapsulate very different characteristics. Every woman in the film has their own definition of success and no woman is pitted against another throughout the film, each being strong in their own individual way. Although the film is obviously set in the past, the costumes and sets indicating the 1970s or 1980s, never is Joy’s situation or struggle blamed on the context of the film. By doing this, Russell doesn’t blame the character’s failures on the social context of the film’s time but on society as a whole. Early in the film, Joy says that she doesn’t need a prince for her life to be great and she won’t blame her failures on anyone but herself because she knows that she is the one who needs to form her own future despite the odds that are piled against her. When Rudy tells his girlfriend Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) that Joy’s failures are his fault because he made her believe she could amount to more than she is worth Joy remains steady headed and brushes her ignorant father’s comments away knowing that it is not the case. As a character, Joy is blissfully self-aware and Lawrence’s portrayal of the protagonist is guaranteed to bag her a slew of nominations come awards season.
Russell is a director and writer who pays special attention to the characters of his films and their stories. Similarly to his other films, Joy is very dialogue-heavy and pays attention to the emotional development of the characters and their relationships with one another. Each character is beautifully flawed making the film refreshing to watch, as no single character is put on a pedestal because of their innate perfection.
If I had to describe Joy in one word it would be ‘beautiful.’ Beautifully written, beautifully directed, beautifully cast and visually beautiful as well. Set against the backdrop of an American East Coast winter, the characters and events of the film are placed against a flawless white canvas, putting them in the foreground of Russell’s visual masterpiece. The cinematography is stunning with long, sweeping shots telling the characters’ victories and woes. Like most of Russell’s films, the costumes were attractive, each one adding to the character’s personality and telling their own story.
Although long at just over two hours, Joy is a beautiful and intellectual film based on the life and career of Joy Mangano. I am astounded that Russell was able to take a story about a woman inventing a mop and create such a compelling and emotional film that is guaranteed to make audiences reflect even after they’ve left the cinema. I suspect Joy will be rewarded with many nominations this coming awards season including best actor and supporting actor, direction and original screenplay. I deeply enjoyed Joy and patiently await its release in cinemas to indulge in a second viewing.
In UK cinemas from January 1st 2016.