If I am being perfectly honest, and within the context of this website I usually am, I usually dislike movies that cling to an extremely unrealistic idea of family. You know what I am talking about, those films that tout the idea where your family is ALWAYS family no matter what they do or say to you. That, due to having blood ties, you are forever tethered to them and have to support them no matter what. Joy feels like one of those movies for me, which leads to my overall experience of the film to be one of annoyance rather than enjoyment! For me, the title of family, isn’t something that is passively given due to some cosmic accident that came into being simply because two people, against all odds, happen to share a shred of the same DNA; the title of family is something earned over time, my sister is my sister because I grew together and earned each others trust and admiration. What this film does, however, is beat you over the head with the idea that, no matter what, you’re stuck with your family even if they are the very same ones that are bringing you down. I mean, not nearly as bad as Fighter, but the theme, at least for me is extremely prevalent in the film nonetheless.
A story of a family across four generations, centered on the girl who becomes the woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Facing betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love, Joy becomes a true boss of family and enterprisee. 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.
Now, this movie does have a lot more to offer than a commentary on family, it just happened to be the most distracting part of the film for me. Jennifer Lawrence, despite this, carries the film with a really well-done performance. Regardless of how the story made me feel, I was enthralled with her whenever she was on-screen. Even her accent was subtle and convincing for the movie and wasn’t at all distracting. She, without a doubt, MAKES this film worth watching and, even though you might think otherwise, this role shows a lot of Lawrence’s range as an actress as the role calls for a lot of different sides to the Joy character. She has to balance doting housewife and daughter as well as being a ruthless business women or even a woman on the edge– she takes what could have been an annoying and boring role and brightens it with her ability as an actress.
But, while her performance is rock solid in the film, it does little to bolster a lackluster story with less-than-likable side characters that take up far too much screen time. Her father, Roby Mangano (Robert DeNiro) and her step-sister fill up far too much of the movie with their nonsensical jealously, ranting about failure or doubting Joy only to be proven wrong later. A little bit of this would have been fine but I dare say that the film uses them as a core part of the story, which was a grave mistake. Rather than progress Joy’s character or show more sides of the business she is trying to assemble, we get to see her family being dicks and, honestly, it is a bit frustrating to say the least.
The parts of Joy’s life, that we do get to see, that revolve around her business, her passion, her love life and more are actually pretty compelling in and of itself. I don’t know much about the real Joy, but if she has half as much passion as what I saw on screen then she does deserve her own movie (and she got one!). I would have liked to see more about her love life with her ex, who remains her business advisor to this day, THAT is an interesting dynamic and less two-dimensional like some of the relationships used in the film. Hell, even her relationship with Bradly Cooper’s character would have made the film far better than the end product that we got…
Look, I am not saying that the film is terrible or unwatchable… what I am saying is that Jennifer Lawrence carries this film on her back to the finish like and she does this with a lot of style and, what looks like, very little effort. So please, go see this movie regardless of my ending score if for no other reason than to see Jennifer Lawrence act and act well. Everything else, as far as I am concerned, is filler– movie fluff made to fill the void– and nothing more. What could have been an extremely good and compelling film to round out my cinema year turned into just a passable film, on a good day, and a missed opportunity to do something truly inspired.
You may have noticed a slight change in how I show my score at the top. Originally each category was weighted differently and individually talked about in the post itself. Then I changed it to showing each category up top, undiscussed as well as them all being weighted the same. I am now changing it to not show EACH category, but one total score (with each category still weighted the same and tallied only on my end. Additionally I will be adding a color system where anything receiving a score under 50 will be in red, anything receiving a score of 50-74 will be in yellow, and anything 75 or higher will be green. Obviously this denotes not only a percentage based scoring system but a color based one as well where anything under 50 will be considered a failing movie, above 50 would be considered passing or passable, and green would be good or great. I haven’t decided if I will retroactively put this system in place for past movies– as that would require sifting through a lot of posts… but we shall see… maybe I will be bored one day!