After David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence's last two great collaborations in "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle", I was expecting a lot from "Joy", and was unfortunately slightly disappointed.
"Joy" is by no means a bad film. The writing is strong, the directing is solid, and the acting is exquisite, specifically by lead Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence gives the character of Joy so much power and dedication that you just latch right on to her. She showers excellence in every line and look in the film, and goes to show that she is, in fact, one of the best actresses in the business. Edgar Ramirez stands out in the supporting cast by having the most to do, and having the most interesting character. He and Joy have a great dynamic, being divorcees yet best friends at the same time. Their relationship could come off as cloying in the wrong hands, but Russell does a fantastic job building their relationship in the most natural way possible. Robert de Niro and Bradley Cooper also star, and are great, but don't get a whole lot to do.
The best parts of "Joy" take place at QVC. We see Joy fail and succeed here, and the most interesting sequences take place during her live debut. You feel sorrow when her invention fails at first, but then joy (pun intended) when she shines on TV and sells her product. There is even a small Joan Rivers shoutout that was nice.
"Joy" screams strong messages of female empowerment and hard work. Joy continues to push through her struggles of her dysfunctional family and money problems, and uses them as inspiration to keep doing better. It's a great message that worked well in the messy film.
To be blunt, "Joy" is a sporadic mess. It's all over the place in terms of quality, tone, and Joy's family's development. There will be a well-crafted, moving scene and then it will jump to a lackluster and boring scene. Most of the film's individual parts work well, they just don't mesh when edited together. Another big issue with "Joy" is our main character's family. They are a bit obnoxious and hard to handle, which they're supposed to be. I get it, I just wished they developed a little more and weren't the exact same characters by the end as they were in the beginning.
I would still say "Joy" is a good film and that you should see it, just don't expect anything on the level of David O. Russell's previous works.