Directed David O. Russell

I assure you, it is no fun to write a bad review of something that looked like it would be charming and fun. Alas, “Joy” is neither. It is, however, bad. After much deliberation I believe I have figured out where it stumbles. Russell, I believe, seems to have lost track of what made his past movies so enjoyable… good stories, with an honest script and good actors who added just enough quirk to make them feel real AND original. Now he seems to have decided that it’s the quirk that matters, a la Wes Anderson. He is gravely mistaken. “I’ve seen Wes Anderson films, and, you, sir, are no Wes Anderson!”

Unlike Tarantino, who took a thread-bare story and made a script for “Hateful Eight” that sings for three hours, Russell took an INCREDIBLY interesting Cinderella story and forgot to write a script. It just tells us everything instead of showing us. Merely a series of closeups of Lawrence as she suffers indignation after indignation thrown at her by the most unlikable cadre of minor characters I’ve seen in a while. This not only doesn’t entertain for two hours (which felt like five), it doesn’t even last through the first act. And as a result, the conclusion of the third act feels more like a reprieve from the Governor for the audience, than a satisfying conclusion for the protagonist.

And, sadly, the real shame is that it wastes such a good cast. J-Law is fine, I guess. She’s eminently watchable, but there’s not enough there there to make her character three-dimensional. And, with the exception of Edgar Ramirez (who is a joy to watch), the O. Russell Players are grossly underused emotionally. And, my god, Rossellini, Madsen and Ladd…in one movie…and to not give a crap about any of them…that’s HARD TO DO! And I don’t even know what Cooper is doing in the film. I’m not sure he does either. And, yet, I honestly don’t think it’s any of the actors’ fault. Write for these people, David! Let THEM add the layers! Kudos, however, to Susan Lucci. At least she delivers exactly what we hope she would.

West Dylan Thordson, who wrote some beautiful additional music for “Foxcatcher”, merely rehashes “Silver Linings Playbook” in this utterly unremarkable score. Again, probably at the behest of Russell.

Hate is probably too strong a word, but this is not a good film and very disappointing. Maybe catch it on Netflix in a few months. It MIGHT work while sitting on a couch with facebook nearby to distract you.

It wasn’t a total loss, however. The film DID make me want to go buy a new mop.

Written on 12/26/2015

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