Joy (2015) Review

director: David O. Russell

writer: David O. Russell

starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez and Bradley Cooper

genre: Drama

released: December 24, 2015 (Greece), December 25, 2015 (U.S.), December 31, 2015 (Germany), January 7, 2016 (Australia)

When it comes to seeing a David O. Russell film you can't go wrong. He consistently makes inspiring and dramatic films of compelling characters that either rise above the situation or come to terms with who they are. Here, the quirky pull yourself by the bootstrap story, is more unique then your average success story film out there, but it ends rather swiftly and sadly for its own good.


As a child Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) was told by her grandmother that she could do anything she ever wanted and become a dynamic woman in the world. Things didn't turn exactly the way her grandmother told her, with her dysfunctional family constantly by her side. But one idea of her's may pay the wave to the future she always deserved and one that will send her on a path a apart from her troublesome family and to productive independence.


Once a filmmaker has found his rag tag group of actors, he usually can do no wrong. May it be Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith or David O. Russell. With their set groups by their side they can lift their material to greater heights and excel at telling stories that otherwise may be too peculiar or familiar. While also showcasing stories that narratively offer both emotional moments of triumph and are open for different groups of people to see. 

For many of these mid budget drama/thrillers, I rarely never see any of their trailers. As the name alone of the filmmaker or the players a part of it is enough. So I didn't know what kind of film I was in for and if it would be an uppity sentimental film or would Russell take it down to one of his more cooky and experimental paths. What it turned out to be was a different package entirely from his recent films. Taking inspiration from a true story and the inventor of the magic mop. But also taking the element of the dysfunctional family to a whole new level, while then changing gears towards the third half of the film, with not necessarily positive results.

The psychosis brought to Joy's family has a real charm and energy to it. Everyone has their little pet dreams, obsessions and jealousies. Some live in a fantasy world and only know how to bring more problems to the table and others unwittingly just are who they are for better or worse. Joy is the only one amongst them who wants to break the mold. All because her grandma had told her that its possible.

Things though can be difficult when your mom is an emotional recluse, stuck on day time soap operas, your father a belligerent romantic who brings Joy down with him, a sister who always thought more of herself and then Joy's ex husband who is the kind of man that didn't know really what to do, except be an amateur singer.

This crazy mix mash of characters never makes the film boring and only leads to Joy failing more times than she deserves and with good reason. And while the break she finally gets makes sense and it is inspired by the true life stories of a couple of inventors. It is David O. Russell's most fairy-tale story of them all. With in the sense that it goes back and forth in time to show off Joy's past and missteps that led her on the wrong path, with the metaphor of the soap opera in her life and the occasional narration by Joy's grandma in the film.

And towards the end especially, it does seem success comes to Joy maybe a little too easily. As we spent a better part of the film with her and her family as a bunch of losers trying to be somebody's. That by the point she does become a somebody the film is really over. This change in pace and in tone makes the film's transition peculiar, to only end up being conventional when it was nothing of the sort during the rest of it.


A multitude of opposing forces come together to bring poor Joy down, but call it intuition, fate, luck or the power of a woman to trump expectations she succeeds. Lawrence's performance is inspiring and the cast around her powerful to say the least. And it will be difficult to come out of this film disappointed, despite its fairy tale conclusion.

Personal Rating:

review by Paul Katsaros

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