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"Joy" Review

. David O. Russell returns with his lucky troop of actors (Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro) in "Joy". "Joy" is the story of Joy Mongano, a struggling single mother, who becomes a billionaire after selling her new invention, the Miracle Mop on the Home Shopping Network. Sounds like your pretty standard setup for the popular "rooting for the underdog" kind of story, right? I thought so too, but what I didn't take into account was this sort of material being put into Russell's hands. The result being, for a lack of a better word, utter insanity. The film bounced back and forth so many different times with its many elements and switching tones that within the first twenty to thirty minutes, all I could think was "What the heck is going on?". It felt like Russell was trying to make the underdog story more interesting to himself by combining elements of "Silver Linings Playbook" and "The Fighter" with a flair of Wes Anderson. But this is done in such a confusing way that it felt like the story was taking place in the 50s or 60s, rather than the late 80s and early 90s when the actual events took place. This constant back and forth also stifled the potential for some great storytelling with the secondary characters and the actors who played them like Virginia Madsen as Joy's soap opera obsessed mother, Robert De Niro as Joy's father who can't seem to maintain a relationship, and Edgar Ramirez as Joy's ex-husband who is a singer still living in her basement. In the first thirty minutes or so, there are no consistent moments of storytelling or moments where the audience can take a breath with the characters because everything is thrown at you at breakneck speed. As a result, the emotional moments with these characters is nearly if not completely lost later on , where they are much needed. This is especially true with Diane Ladd as Joy's grandmother, who also serves as the film's narrator but is only in the film for ten to fifteen minutes, and Bradley Cooper as the executive who gives Joy's Miracle Mop a chance and serves as her business mentor. However, the only memorable thing about him was his constant spouting of trivia about the founding executives of movie studios like Louis B. Mayer. The film also rushes its ending, cutting off the emotional victory the audience should be feeling with Joy and jumping forward in time, mainly to summarize what happened to all the characters, so by the time the credits rolled, I felt confused and emotionally unfulfilled. The film has two saving graces, however. The first is Jennifer Lawrence as the emotional center of the story. It goes without saying that Lawrence is an acting powerhouse, and here, like in Silver Linings Playbook, she does it again. I could feel the anger and frustration building when we first meet her and felt it explode when Joy breaks down in front of her daughter late in the film. That scene alone was absolutely gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. The second saving grace, actually due in part to Lawrence, was when Joy first goes to QVC to promote her mop. That scene worked for me because the film started to slow down, the elements were coming together and the audience was allowed to engage with the story and characters. Because of that, I was able to become emotionally hooked for the rest of the movie. In Summary: Jennifer Lawrence delivers a strong performance as the main character in "Joy" but David O. Russell's inconsistency with the tone and rushing with the storytelling hampers everything else. Ranking: 3.0 Stars out of 5.

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