Jennifer Lawrence's Oscar-nomination for her performance as Joy Mangano, a divorcee, mother and working woman in the movie Joy, who invents household items that may or may not have any relevance to future generations, is one of those foregone conclusions at the Oscars night which crop up to make the film clips on the monitor look complete.
It’s a made-for-the-Oscar film. Lawrence is not only given a pivotal, author-backed aspirational role, she is surrounded by a bevy of brilliant actors, each trying to breathe life into characters that come dangerously close to being uni-dimensional.
Robert de Niro as Ms Lawrence’s father (can anyone beat that?) is the lovable cad who abandons his family responsibilities but still continues to be loved by his wife’s family. Don’t ask me why. Maybe because de Niro plays the kind of good-for-nothing man certain rich women fall for. Or maybe just because he is played by the undoubtable De Niro, the father remains a lovable scumbag.
De Niro has an intriguing love life — he goes on a blind date with a wealthy socialite, played with resplendent snobbishness by Isabelle Roselleni, who ends up funding his daughter’s dream project.
Rosellini and Jennifer Lawrence’s face-off at the plot’s mid point should have made us sit up and wait expectantly for the pay-off in the second-half. Instead the rags-to-riches saga whimpers across its whimsical landscape hoping to capture the characters’ quirks in some semblance of cosmic order. In vain.
Though Joy is not unwatchable, it hardly lives up to its title. Except for Edgar Ramirez who plays Joy’s ex-husband and eternal best friend, none of the characters seem built out of flesh and blood.
Admittedly a lot of the surface sparkle and illusion of power that this film exudes comes from the actor who toils effortlessly to appear convincing in roles that are written in the broad strokes of a television sitcom. Joy’s mother Terr i(Virginia Madsen) spends all her time — and we mean ‘all’ literally — watching daily soaps. She falls in love with a Haitian plumber who comes to fix her leaky plumbing. ogether they cook up exotic dishes and carry it around the house like two monks seeking benediction through food.
Author Milan Kundera had described the state that these characters strive to achieve as an unbearable lightness of being. Here in Joy, we see characters achieve that sense of blithe existence where success and failure come with no surprises either way.
Like the real-life character that Jennifer Lawrence plays so confidently, Joy in the film invents a ‘miracle mop’ that initially, no one wants to buy. This is the cue for Bradley Cooper to enter. He plays an on-television sales entrepreneur and is featured in what would loosely be termed a supportive role.
What prompted Cooper to take up a role as stilted and artificial as those lines that his sales girls throw at unsuspecting customers? It seems both Bradley Cooper and the formidable Robert de Niro decided to reunite with Jennifer Lawrence for this emptied-out aspirational saga, just for the sake of giving director David O’Russell some quality company.
Russell was in much more vital form in Silver Linings Playbook, the film that brought together the De Niro-Cooper-Lawrence threesome in a compelling clasp of quirkiness.
Swinging pendulum-like between soap opera and satire, Joy is a disappointing follow-up to the director’s last film American Rustle, which rustled up a reservoir of echoes from the cultural ethos of the American people.
Joy manages just about a bite from the Big Apple and squanders the American Dream in pumped-up pompous self-congratulatory episodes of ponderous wish-fulfilment. More tiring than inspiring.