Review: JOY

Writer/director/producer David O. Russell’s follow-up to the slightly overrated American Hustle reunites his three favourite actors – Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro – for another epic depiction of the United States back in the 1970s.

And while based on some sort of fact, this family saga/character drama often feels like The Godfather (but with less crime and violence), features heavy riffs of feminism, wonderfully tacky clothes and a continuous feeling that every character is on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Lawrence’s Joy Mangano’s life is narrated by her Grandma Mimi (Diane Ladd). Joy is a harried mother of two living with Mimi, her divorced parents Rudy (De Niro) and Terry (Virginia Madsen), and her cheesy crooner ex-husband Tony (Édgar Ramirez). These tense early scenes are fine and funny, but soon the plot shifts. Joy strikes upon a ‘big idea’ and works hard at going into business with Tony, Rudy, Rudy’s new partner Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) and her bestie Jackie (Dascha Polanco from TV’s Orange Is The New Black), as her spiteful half-sister Peggy (Elisabeth Röhm) lurks. Russell’s tale then takes another turn as Joy’s marketing attempts bring her into contact with Neil (Cooper), a salesman extraordinaire (and one-time employee of Fox Studios, apparently), and suddenly we’re into the realms of cool consumerist/commercial satire as Joy becomes a story told, weirdly, in five acts. Despite the title of Russell’s American Hustle, his newie turns out to be his ultimate study-cum-celebration-cum-skewering of America and its many faces: America the land of opportunity; America the entertainment capital; America the land of huge money – and huger corruption; and America, home of that elusive ‘American Dream’. And while Lawrence won the Oscar for her supporting role in Hustle they gave it to her for the wrong movie, as here she delivers a performance of great commitment and sometimes furious rage. And those cheeks…

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