(2015, David O Russell)
(4 out of 5 stars)
Joy invented the Miracle Mop. She's one of the most successful female American entrepreneurs who managed to grow out of her suffocating home life and destructive family while managing one of her own. It is an insightful look at the strain and struggles of a working mother.
In the first scenes we see Joy managing the mayhem - fixing the plumbing, getting ready for work, answering the door, tending to her mother and kids - I already felt exhausted just watching her. It is a cluttered, disorderly film and it couldn't have been any other way.
The tangled tone of JOY is reflective of Joy's messy, complicated life. I appreciated the chaos. The camera moved through their house like a manic, invisible guest. Actors would walk in and out of the frame. The soundtrack is disjointed but each song is somehow the perfect fit for the particular scene it plays in. The overall sense is chaos and high energy but Jennifer Lawrence holds it all together with her most layered performance since WINTER'S BONE.
She's the steadfast center amidst a constellation of deeply flawed characters. The supporting characters are interesting to watch but they are played with a single note. I didn't have a problem with this as it's not really about them. They're there to show how Joy became who she became and who she was.
Biopics are rarely inventive. They tell the story and they leave. Many fall into the trap of event-based storytelling (this is what happened to them, this is what they did) without actually offering any insight into the actual person. How they think, how they feel - the interior. BLACK MASS is the perfect example of this. I had the same emotional reaction from watching the movie as I did with reading Bulger's Wikipedia page.
Fortunately, JOY doesn't fall into the same trap. This is an interesting biopic in terms of form, direction, tone and performance. I agree it is messy but wasn't that the point? I couldn't think of any better way to tell this particular story. I was able to understand the struggle this woman had to endure and the director's undivided focus on her let me see myself in her shoes. That's good cinema.