Joy gets off to a fairly rocky start. For those who haven't seen this film yet, I am going to tell you to stick with it, you must! It takes a little bit of traction but about thirty minutes in, Joy becomes a compelling, well-paced and exciting biopic of a fascinating true story and an even more fascinating woman.
This is a film about mops. This is a film about motivation. Also, it's about one woman's journey in which everything bad is thrown at her, and no matter the odds, she fights her way through it, and just when it looks like there is light at the end of the tunnel, she finds herself in a mess once again. Joy Mangano (Portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence), a self-made millionaire with her own empire, gets her real-life story told on the big screen and it's a great watch. Seriously, this incredible woman went through so much humiliation and pain, it's a wonder how she is where she is today. David O. Russell tells the story with his consistently cool directorial style, his obsession for the human hand gestures reels you into the characters, the cinematography is stunning with the framing up-close to his performers and the soundtrack is absolute gold.
There are a few negatives with the film, and it's mostly to do with characters and pacing. For whole chunks of the film, some characters are missing, and then are suddenly re-introduced towards the ending, most noticeably Virginia Madsen's Terry, who plays such an integral part in the beginning, is seemingly swept under the rug right till the end. I wasn't a fan of the first ten minutes, yes it establishes the key players but it's noisy and there isn't an essence of any drama, comedy or general interest, it feels like you're a stranger in someone's house as they go about their day. My other negative, whilst it's only minor, is the prosthetics and make-up they lump on DeNiro in the final ten minutes to show his age, it looks ridiculously slapped on and unintentionally funny.
Going back to what I said earlier regarding Joy's rock start, it is crucial you stick with it, because once you get to the scene where Joy meets an executive at QVC, the pace picks up swiftly and the fun starts. Bradley Cooper's executive Neil Walker shows Joy the backstage of QVC, and she is introduced to a whole host of industry experts, each with interesting quips and personalities, and in this scene, Joy is a small fish in the big ocean. The drama and emotion really kicks in around this point, especially in a shocking turn of events where Joy watches as her "Miracle Mop" product is presented on TV and it fails spectacularly, leaving her with no buyers and severe amounts of debt. The silence in this scene, chosen wonderfully by O. Russell, sets up the character perfectly, in that she is built-up and then knocked down, and this happens to Joy over and over again.
Whilst the story is well told and directed, the performances are fantastic from everywhere, yet there are some standouts. Edgar Ramirez surprised me a lot with his subtle comedic beats and expression, it's his career best. Isabella Rossellini is superb as a bull-in-a-china shop type business woman who is essentially a nasty piece of work, you can tell Rossellini is having a blast playing this part.
However, whilst everyone knows Jennifer Lawrence is an insanely talented actress, here she is just phenomenal, I think this is her best performance yet, surpassing that of Winter's Bone and Silver Linings Playbook, she seems to get better with each film passing. There are several defining scenes here that perfectly highlight why Lawrence deserved the Oscar nomination she got for this role. The sequence where Joy presents her invention on QVC is impeccably performed by Lawrence, somehow she manages to act badly like her character would have, the nerves, the uncertainty and lack of experience presenting is all there, up until she gets the hang of it and suddenly Lawrence just lights up the screen with confidence. Another really sweet moment is at the end when Joy is meeting budding inventors, and a young woman with her husband and baby enter. Joy takes the inventions, praises it, and helps this woman to bring her work to life, Lawrence boasts earnest and immense likability in this scene, topping off the film with a feel-good and strong climax.
I would definitely recommend checking Joy out. The star-power is one big positive, the overall story is a fascinating one and despite the rocky first act, all is forgotten once our protagonist takes on the big retailer and fights for her life's work!