David O. Russell is a director whose recent work I am familiar with. In the last 5 years he has brought us ‘The Fighter’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ which both really impressed me and I enjoy a lot. His latest big release, ‘American Hustle’ provoked a mixed response, despite the great cast the film just wasn’t that entertaining. I certainly wasn’t its biggest fan and because of that I was a little apprehensive before seeing ‘Joy’.
Much like his other films, there are plenty of big names involved in this project. Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper are probably the three most well known. As you’d expect those actors and actresses along with the rest of the cast perform well, however early on into the film I felt it was going a similar direction that ‘American Hustle’ did. It takes far too long to gain any kind of momentum and the initial drama that we are presented with just isn’t interesting enough to fully engage the audience. The largely dull script in the first half of the film didn’t help either. I was quickly giving up on ‘Joy’, that was until Bradley Cooper arrives and with him he brings the drama and the heart of the story.
‘Joy’ is loosely based on Joy Mangano, in the film Joy is a divorced mother with two children. She’s always loved inventing things and she eventually takes the plunge with one of her designs. From when Cooper appears on screen this is when we really see this plot take shape. The pay off for the poor opening comes later in the film and the audience are engaged even despite the previous lack of interest. The film actually has some really fantastic moments, there are a couple of scenes which are constructed very well and thanks to the good cast you do find yourself being fully immersed in the drama. It’s just a shame that the narrative isn’t consistent through the whole film, as there are portions where boredom sets in quite quickly. A little too much build up and context was included especially as Joy’s life after her meeting with Cooper’s character is much more interesting. There was more potential for a fully engaging narrative if more time had been focused on this period of her life.
David O. Russell has certainly improved on his last effort, ‘American Hustle’. However, he still has a long way to go to match his more accomplished works in recent years. ‘Joy’ is performed very well by its cast but it’s inconsistent narrative lets it down which is a real shame as when the film is good, it’s very good.
Rating – 6.5/10
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