Joy is the movie in which Jennifer Lawrence shows the world how good an actress she is. Not that she hasn’t already proved that: She held a whole franchise together successfully in The Hunger Games series and of course won the Oscar for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook but it didn’t feel like she was really stretching. She was good, but she didn’t feel great.
Jennifer Lawrence is great in Joy. She is surrounded by talented actors and actresses but she holds the screen each time she’s on it. The transformation from the run-down, exhausted housewife to the successful businesswoman genuinely happens before your eyes and you believe this “true story” could have happened the way it is presented here.
It isn’t just Lawrence of course, there is a lot more to the movie than just her performance. The film opens with Joy’s exhausting life and you feel the pain and relentless, unforgiving situation she has found herself in. One ten minute sequence gets the whole run-down of her life, from kids, dysfunctional parents who still need their younger daughter, a jealous half-sister and a delusional ex-husband who lives in the basement. It sets up what becomes a very empowering and motivating story.
The tale of Joy, who invented the Miracle Mop and helped launch television shopping, is a fascinating story anyway. What director and writer David O. Russell does is increase the tension, with long monologues, dramatic pauses and stark moments where we watch Lawrence’s Joy go from overwhelmed housewife to business empire mogul. The story is crafted brilliantly, up to the grand finale of the story which is as uplifting as it gets. It may not be entirely accurate but as the saying goes, “why let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
It also helps that Russell surrounds Joy with characters who will infuriate as she tries to get her invention off the ground. The acting talent is great and the fact that Russell can now call upon the seasoned skills of Robert De Niro, who plays Joy’s unsupportive father or Virginia Madsen, who is Joy’s slightly unstable Mother, is testament to the success he has achieved.
These obnoxious characters and the lengths they seem to go to ruin Joy’s business make the moments of triumph so much sweeter. The highly publicised moment when Joy finally snaps at her half-sister, played nasty by Elisabeth Rohm, is just one such moment in which you will want to jump cheering at the screen.
The characters are not all nasty and of course it isn’t just moments of torment for Joy to overcome. Bradley Cooper effortlessly portrays the Head Buyer for QVC, Neil Walker, and runs a quick monologue and fast-paced scene with ease. The first time Joy is on TV or walking down the street with a new haircut, these are the points in the film which make it so successful and the choice of music to accompany make the impact so much more effective.
Overall, Joy is Jennifer Lawrence’s best performance to date and demonstrates that she has the acting talent to be remembered as one of greats. David O. Russell has given her an uplifting, motivational story which will at times have you screaming at the screen in anger and others jumping for Joy.
Rating – 4.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)