“Joy”: Is the third time the charm for Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell?

JOY Jennifer Lawrence 2015
Few filmmaker/acting teams have gotten the recent attention that Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell have received, with equal parts love and derision coming their way. As a fan of their collaborations American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, I was greatly looking forward to Joy, potentially as the instance where Russell would finally be awarded by the Academy. Obviously, Lawrence has been nominated both times before, and so has Russell in both writing and directing categories, but only Lawrence has won an Oscar. Could this finally be the time for them both of them to win, or even just for Russell? Well, with the film hitting theaters this week, I’ll be discussing just that…

For those completely unaware, the film is a slightly fictionalized look at businesswoman and inventor Joy Mangano (though the filmmakers have made this more of a composite character and not strictly about her, as explicitly stated in the opening title cards), a successful entrepreneur who hit it rather big with a special self wringing mop she designed. Lawrence portrays Joy as she goes from a young single mother in a dysfunctional family to the founder and matriarch of a powerful family business that will be a dynasty for generations to come. Through it all, she’s had to be a powerful woman in a decidedly male dominated world, dealing with adversity, failure, and those who constantly told her to quit while she was behind. Russell obviously directs the movie and co-writes with Annie Mumolo (who, as I’ve mentioned in a few previous articles, penned the initial script but now only receives a Story By credit here), while the supporting cast includes Bradley Cooper, De Niro, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Edgar Ramirez, Elisabeth Röhm, Isabella Rossellini, and many more.

JOY Jennifer Lawrence headshot w:eyeglasses
I found the movie to be a mixed bag, definitely “lesser” Russell, but Lawrence again shines, having the filmmaker bring out the best in her. De Niro is very good as well, showing that Russell has a magic touch with him as well, but Lawrence is definitely best in show. She’s able to take a complicated character and portray her with a deep humanity, never betraying her roots. She’s tough when required, wounded when required, and always believable. Even when things around her are crumbling (both plot wise and also sometimes the film itself), Lawrence soars. The flick is a showcase for how she’s one of the best in the business, that’s for sure. The product on the whole? Not so much. It’s got some great highs, but it really does show evidence of having four credited editors, which is rarely a good thing.

Awards wise, this probably was a bigger contender back when it was a mystery. Now, not being an X factor limits its likely nominations, but the campaign will likely still be in motion across the board. Fox will undoubtedly hope for citations in Best Picture, Best Director (for Russell), Best Actress (for Lawrence), Best Supporting Actor (for Cooper, De Niro, and/or Ramirez), Best Supporting Actress (for Ladd, Madsen, and/or Rossellini), Best Original Screenplay (for Mumolo and Russell), Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing. I only really think that Lawrence in Actress is happening, with Picture an outside possibility. Oddly enough, this onetime frontrunner is now at risk of actually being shut out.

Overall, this weekend will see Lawrence and Russell attempt to make it three for three (with Cooper as well, even though he’s very much a supporting player this time around) at the box office with Joy. If that happens, there’s a chance that Oscar voters really decide to get behind this one in other categories besides Actress, but the film seems too messy for that to happen. Time will tell though, since it’s been a fairly divisive movie already. Do I think it’s worth seeing? Yes. Do I think it’ll blow you away? No. Make of that what you will, but this is definitely a flick you won’t find boring. It’s got a distinct flavor, so it’s just a matter of seeing if you like the taste of it or not…

Be sure to check out Joy, in theaters on Christmas Day!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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