Review: Joy

Joy is a timeless story of perseverance and ambition that will join the ranks of great women driven biopics, says

★★★★☆

Image: Twentieth Century Fox

Image: Twentieth Century Fox

“I pick up the gun”

Master filmmaker David O. Russell returns to the screen with a bold biopic, loosely based on the life of inventor, Joy Mangano and her tempestuous climb to the top. Glistening with Russel’s signature acidic charm and yet  another mesmerising performance from Jennifer Lawrence, Joy makes for an electrifying start to the year!

Set at the close of the 1980’s, struggling single mum, Joy uses her own invention to gradually start constructing her own business. The odds are against her as she is forced to undertake the role of the glue that holds her flaky family together. Joy is a woman suffocating within the stifling confines of a house prone to broken pipes and the constant presence of dodgy soap operas.  Unbeknownst to our heroine, though, she will soon flourish into the matriarch of a sparkling, million dollar business empire, crafted from true grit and a stack of ‘Miracle Mops’.

Charming and, of course, slightly quirky, David O Russell’s script (co-written with Oscar nominee Annie Mumolo, of Bridesmaids) is as compelling as ever, following on from the fantastic works of American Hustle (2013) and Silver Lining’s Playbook (2012). What sounds to be quite a dull plot outline actually manifests itself into an engrossing story. The hard-edged and emotionally striking dialogue composes characters that are both deliciously complex and hard as nails.

Russell’s films are so immersive, mainly because the characters and the worlds they inhabit are so intoxicating; there’s a wackiness to these elements, so that even a film about how the ‘Miracle Mop’ came to be is an ultimately fascinating tale. In fact, at points the intensity seems to mirror that of a pulse-racing war film; watching a General prepare for a battle that they are likely to lose… But what do they do? They do what Joy does. They pick up the gun, anyway.

Full of glossy cinematography, Joy has an intimately surreal quality, a kind of cosy dreaminess, which induces the feeling that the audience is not a fly on the wall observing the events of Joy’s life, but more seeing the world through her eyes. Resultantly this amplifies the heartbreak and humour of the film as we live this story with her; the slow panning shots and heavy use of close-ups helping to enhance the claustrophobia closing in around Joy’s dreams. It has a fuming undertone that ignites momentum, almost like the growling engine of a race car – it’s exciting! This energy is also propelled by a cool soundtrack, featuring; The Rolling Stones, The Ronettes, Alabama Shakes and Nat King Cole.

Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence delivers a brilliant performance in the starring role, playing her entrepreneurial, gun toting super mum with an unyielding, almost hell bent determination to succeed. She looks cool in a leather jacket and aviator shades whilst walking through a shower of paper snow. This scene in particular had a strange kind of poignancy to it, something transcendent – as if she were slowly moving into the realms of Hollywood icon, matching the likes of seeing Audrey Hepburn saunter outside Tiffany’s store window. Strong and audacious, J.Law should undoubtedly be a front runner for 2016’s award season after bagging a Golden Globe nomination last month! She is accompanied by a star studded cast that all gave fantastic performances, most notably from Robert De Niro, portraying Joy’s helpless and often volatile father, as well as Isabella Rossellini and Bradley Cooper.

Profoundly moving, inspiring and disarmingly hilarious, Russell’s films are renowned for bubbling with raw emotion and Joy is no exception. The film doesn’t glamourize the long and difficult road to success. It squashes sentimentality with a hard hitting stamp, ‘Don’t think the world owes you anything, because it doesn’t. The world doesn’t owe you a thing’. And yet, Joy is a timeless story of perseverance and ambition that will join the ranks of great women driven biopics such as Erin Brockovich and La Vie en Rose.

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