Cinematic Releases: Joy (2015)

Jennifer Lawrence shrugs off The Hunger Games series for a new dramatic endeavor.

Internet leaks be damned!
How do you spell Oscar bait? J-O-Y. 

David O. Russell's Joy is a joyless, self aware and tediously inane piece of cinematic drivel that flounders on the edge of boredom and creative misery. Mixing Russell's on again off again relationship with dramatic cinema, this latest effort hinges solely on the merits of Jennifer Lawrence as she's backed by a mostly useless cast featuring DeNiro, Cooper, Rossellini, Madsen, Ladd, and Ramirez. With an obviously artistically struggling Russell at the reins, Joy is an unfocused and truncated biopic that haphazardly never gets off the ground. With a sharper screenplay and a more focused delivery, this story could have been extremely interesting. However, Russell can't get out of his own way and turns this into a devastatingly mediocre effort. 

With films like Three Kings, The Fighter, and Silver Linings Playbook under his belt, it's shocking that Joy is such a strange affair. Considering this is a feature based in the real world, the subject matter should have been easily transposed to the cinematic realm. Between terrible editing, a horrifyingly unprepared script, strangely placed sound cues, Joy manifests itself into sadly manipulated Oscar bait that actually wastes a top tier cast on a movie that does nothing more than serve Russell's growing ego. Joy is another dim witted exercise in a director trying to turn a real life story into some artistic gem that should have stayed in the developmental phase..... or at least condemned to the prison walls of a formulaic biographical study. 

Releasing this right at the end of the year places their motivations rightfully in the center of the Oscar season mentality. Sadly for them, Lawrence is the only watchable thing about this movie. DeNiro is unabashedly sqauandered and a caricature of himself. Bradley Cooper is profoundly underwhelming. Rossellini is irritating and sad. Virginia Madsen is an unlikable mess. And the never aging Dianne Ladd is just a shadow of herself under the duress of a poorly devised script about the rise to fame of QVC/HSN home shopping maven, Joy Mangano. 

Honey. It'll be okay. Next time I won't
let all these great actors suck so bad.
While the true story of Joy is most likely a great tale of female empowerment in a world run by greedy men, the movie is severely faulted by the predication that a great cast means a great movie. Taking into account the other cinematic entries of Russell, it's easy to see that his own self worth is getting in the way of his work. Joy feels too in love with itself as it meanders through unneeded aesthetics just to please an egocentric film. Yes, biopics can be artistically leaning, but Joy (in its current state) has no room for it. If they had stuck to making this a straight narrative about her rise to millions with a dedicated story about the inventor's struggle to succeed, this movie could have been GREAT. But, once again, something is way off about Joy and it mostly lies with the choices of its director.  

This will be a decent Netflix watch. Lawrence is great. Everything else is not.