December 28, 2015

Movie Review: Joy (2015)

At first I was going to take a pass on Joy. I have never been the biggest fan of David O. Russell, although I did like Silver Linings Playbook was pretty good (American Hustle on the other hand…. well, let’s say it was not so). The trailers for this movie didn't exactly leave me thrilled, there was a scene it that just makes me cringe just like the Rosie O’Donnell quip in the Deadpool trailer, in other words, not good. Still, I found myself sitting in the theater watching Joy unfold before me. It did not exactly bring me joy, but it was a bit better than I was expecting. I still won’t be lining up to sing the praises of Russell, but at least I was entertained.

Frankly, I am really not sure how much I have to say about Joy. It is the sort of movie that will blind you with star power. Jennifer Lawrence, Robert Deniro, Bradley Cooper, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Elizabeth Rohm, Edgar Ramirez, it is quite the assemblage of talent. In some cases, I take this as a warning sign that they want to distract you from a weak movie, a feeling I got with American Hustle and many Oscar-bait type films. It isn’t that they can’t be good, but it seems to dilute the product some. What saves this is that is a rather weird movie that lets the names sort of fade into the background as Lawrence leads the way. There is no denying the talent involved.

The movie is actually interesting in its choice of subject matter. Who would honestly believe that someone would make a film about the inventor of the Miracle Mop? Seriously. Or that Bradley Cooper would be playing a character based on a QVC executive. It is like someone clicked the I’m Feeling Lucky button on Google and made a film based on whatever came up. Certainly, I get that they were looking to make a film about real life female role models in business, that is a good thing, it just seems odd seeing a movie about someone making a mop. No, I am not trying to make fun of the invention, you just have to admit it is an odd choice for a feature film.

I think one of the things I liked most about the movie is that it is not afraid to be a little odd and stylized. A lot of movies try to go for realism and that can be quite boring. Sure, you can get some great performances, but getting weird, being stylized, being even a little bit different allows for a more creative experience. This is not always a good or a bad thing, it just is. It is part of why I am attracted to genre films (horror, science fiction, etc.), there is something to be said about crafting your own reality. That is what Joy feels like, sure it is based on, inspired by, combines actual events, but it has a reality all its own, it does not feel like my reality, and that can help the reality of the film.

Is Joy a great film? No, not really, it has some cookie cutter characters, some bad dialogue and acting, but it is always being true to itself. Sometimes that is all we can ask for. I don’t have to like it, but it should certainly be tried. David O. Russell will never be a favorite of mine, but I hope he keeps making the movies he makes. They will work for someone, sometimes lots of someones, just be a little off kilter, change the direction of the mainstream.

Wow. this really went off in a direction I hadn’t thought about. What do you think? Is it worthy supporting those who do not really fit the pure mainstream? Joy, and Russell’s films in general, are not great, but they play off of mainstream and get a little stylized. Joy, in particular, does not feel very real, but it plays “real” and that matters more, I think. Sometimes. I don’t know. I think I just like movies that don’t attempt to replicate the world I live in. The world I live in is boring, I would prefer my movies not be.

I should probably stop now before someone thinks I am endorsing the not that bad Joy and making it something it isn’t. It is worth checking out. How’s that? Simple end to a review that doesn't know what it wants to be.


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