There's this thing David O Russell does where he captures the gonzo craziness of everyday family life in real families - where's the too much to do and not enough time, and a lot of love but also a lot of bickering and irrational emotional lashing out. He somehow captures the too many loud voices and freewheeling chaos. He did this is SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and does so again at the start of JOY, where we see Jennifer Lawrence's harassed single mom cut her fingers on a shard of glass as she mops up a spill and get the inspiration for the miracle mop. The movie starts with such energy and such crazy larger-than-life characters that I was prepared to let myself get swept up on the wave of this most improbable biopic. I loved that Joy had an estranged latino husband (Edgar Ramirez) who still somehow had her best interests at heart. And that her feckless father (Robert de Niro) has a hardball rich widow girlfriend (a scene-stealing Isabella Rossellini) who didn't give Joy a dime without asking some tough questions.
But somewhere after the first half hour the movie descends into a pretty cheesy underdog story in which every set piece is predictable. How did we somehow know that when Joy first appears on TV home sales network she's gonna bomb, or that she's gonna triumph when she realises that she needs to take off all the wardrobe and make-up and just be a housewife on TV? And it's all too predictable that her family are gonna become jealous and try to rip Joy off or otherwise put her in a precarious situation. And maybe that's the problem with the latter half of this film. Joy is perfect. She survives and survives and survives despite her feckless family and thieving manufacturers. And at the end of the day it's her ever loyal ex-husband and best friend who stick by her, because why? I just felt the movie kind of ran out of steam. Yes Joy is successful and saintly in helping other single moms find their dreams. But where's the resolution? I also feel - and maybe this is unfair - that I've seen too much of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper on screen together to the point that I found whatever manufactured sexual tension might have been between the two characters hard to stomach. I feel that this small David O Russell repertory company needs to be disbanded for its own good.
JOY has a running time of 124 minutes and is rated PG-13. It is on global release in the USA, Greece, Israel, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, New Zealand, Egypt, France, the UAE, Bahrain, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Taiwan, South Africa, Austria, Estonia, Finland, the UK, Ireland and Latvia. It opens later in January in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Spain, Mexico, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Belgium, Argentina, Bosnia, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela, Brazil, Russia, Slovenia, India, Lithuania, Italy and Ecuador. It opens in February in Chile, Croatia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Kazakhstan; and in Indonesia in March.