JOY is the wild story of a family across four generations, and centers on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love pave the road in this intense emotional and human comedy about becoming a true boss of family and enterprise facing a world of unforgiving commerce. Allies become adversaries and adversaries become allies, both inside and outside the family, as Joy s inner life and fierce imagination carry her through the storm she faces. Oscar® Winner JENNIFER LAWRENCE* stars with fellow Oscar® Winner ROBERT DE NIRO,** BRADLEY COOPER, EDGAR RAMIREZ, ISABELLA ROSSELLINI, DIANE LADD, VIRGINIA MADSEN, ELISABETH RÖHM and DASCHA POLANCO. Like David O. Russell s previous films, Joy defies genre to tell a story of family, loyalty, and love.
I've been a big fan of Director David O. Russell's last several movie releases. I thought The Fighter was wonderfully entertaining and emotionally moving; I enjoyed being taken back to the 70s in American Hustle; and his fantastic Silver Linings Playbook was my single favorite film of 2012. But sadly there's little 'Joy' in Russell's latest effort, despite once again getting solid performances from his favorite actors Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro.
The film stars Lawrence as real-life inventor Joy Mangano, a divorced woman (her ex still lives in the family's basement) who decides to chase her dreams and put her financial security and future on the line in order to develop and sell a mop she has created, which is both self-wringing and has a head that is removable so it can be thrown into the washer and cleaned. Much of 'Joy' (too much, I propose) deals with Joy's efforts to get her invention into the eyes of the American public.
Joy eventually gets her chance on QVC, where she meets with executive Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), who – after being demonstrated the mop by Joy – agrees to give it a segment on the TV shopping channel. However, Walker gets one of his regular pitchmen to sell the mop, and things don't go well – resulting in Joy demanding that she be allowed to present the mop herself to the viewers at home. Anyone who's seen Lawrence and Bradley in some of the other movies they've done together already knows the two actors have pretty strong chemistry. Their scenes in 'Joy' are easily the best parts of this movie – to the point that you wish much more of it would have focused on the Walker character.
Sadly, the moments described above don't happen until the second-half of the film. Director Russell spends the first chunk of his movie on Joy's home life and showing us all the quirky family members that surround her. Her mother (Virginia Madsen) spends all day watching soap operas on TV; her father (Robert De Niro) who – after three divorces – starts dating an Italian woman he met on a 1-900 date line (how lonely shlubs like yours truly attempted to meet ladies before match.com) who not only is super-rich but looks exactly like Isabella Rossellini; and the already-mentioned ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) who still lives with the family and actually turns out to be the one character here whose support for Joy is unwavering.
Of course, Russell's cinematic interests have always been character-driven, but his problem here is that his characters – even parts of Joy herself – seem more like caricatures this time out. That's entertaining in short bits, but it doesn't mix well when Russell then tries to be dramatic. The blame, however, is totally on his end and with the end of the screenplay (also from Russell), rather than the actors themselves – who do their best with what they've been given (lest anyone think Jennifer Lawrence's Oscar nomination for 'Joy' was totally undeserved).
'Joy' is one of those uneven movies that you'll dislike parts of, enjoy other parts of, but quickly forget about a day or two after viewing it. It's hopefully just a speed bump in Russell's directorial career and not a sign of things to come the next time he gets behind the camera. File this one safely in rental territory – even big fans of the actors here aren't likely to want to see this a second time.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Joy' arrives on Blu-ray in an eco-friendly Elite keepcase, which houses the dual-layer 50GB disc along with an insert containing a code for either an iTunes or UltraViolet digital copy of the movie. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, 20th Century Fox hasn't front-loaded any trailers onto the disc, whose main menu consists of a montage of footage from the film, with menu selections running horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray is region-free.
'Joy' was shot on 35mm film on the Arricam LT and ST models and is presented on Blu-ray in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Facial features look great here, with a lot of detail and consistency throughout. Viewers will notice that the cinematography for Russell's latest film leans heavily on whites and off-whites, but fortunately the onslaught doesn't lead to an overly bright or "blown out" look, probably a benefit of film over a digital production.
Details here are good, especially during the scenes were the Joy character visits the pristine sets of QVC, which prove to be in sharp contrast to the more "lived-in" look of her home life. Black levels are strong throughout, and things like aliasing and/or banding are not an issue here. Best of all, the presentation still provides a very film-like appearance, with grain evident, but never obtrusive.
The primarily audio here is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track which, while not necessarily outstanding in any noticeable way, is free from any problems or glitches that might distract from one's enjoyment of the movie. Like most Blu-ray tracks, the spoken word is front and center, with the surrounds used to enhance the movie's soundtrack (in addition to the musical score for the film, Russell peppers in some popular period music for the movie, which is set primarily in the late 80s/early 90s) as well as some ambient noises. While the audio never really feels all that immersive, it is free from any problematic glitches and provides for a pleasant enough listen.
In addition to the lossless English audio, tracks are also available in 5.1 Dolby Digital in Spanish (Latin), French, and Portuguese. 5.1 DTS tracks are available in both Spanish (Castilian) and Russian. A 5.1 English Descriptive Audio track is also an option. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), French, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Estonian, Hindi, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian.
After a string of really entertaining releases, David O. Russell swings and misses with 'Joy', a movie that is well-shot, with some nice performances, but one that fails at the basic screenplay level. Russell seems so determined to show us the quirkiness of all his various characters that he forgets to tell an engaging story. Even die-hard fans of the director and actors will want to put this one on their rental list. It's not something you're likely to want to view more than once.