The possibilities of this Jennifer-Lawrence-starrer were immense. Joy is the true story of a girl who overcomes her completely dysfunctional upbringing, comes up with an idea for a self-wringing mop, designs, manufactures and sells it herself, and then finds the strength to persevere when everyone and everything seems to go against her until she comes out on top. The movie had all the makings of perhaps David O. Russell’s (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) first Academy Award winning picture.

Unfortunately, 1) Lawrence mails it in and, uncharacteristically, simply doesn’t seem to have her head in the game. She’s good at times, especially with her back against the wall, but a story like this is not supposed to have Katniss Everdeen at its center. 2) The story is in the end, mean-spirited. It finishes Trump-like, emphasizing a kill-or-be-killed message. Joy’s a winner! But… at what cost? She picked up the gun. 3) The comedic element that Russell so often works into what are essentially dramas and provides a respite from the difficult main themes of his films, doesn’t work in this movie at all. Many of the jokes are early in the film and come across as angry, cruel put-downs. This is some of Robert De Niro’s worst comic work, but I’m not sure it is not the script that fails him.

None of the uplifting messages of hope and triumph over tremendously adverse circumstances that seem to be true of the actual story come through as they should. Pity.

Drew Trotter

December 27, 2015

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