The Buzz: David O. Russell has reunited yet again with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert DeNiro. This line-up has produced some pretty strong results for him critically, netting a Best Picture nod for Silver Linings Playbook, along with a Best Actress win for Lawrence. American Hustle, while not quite as successful on that front, has its defenders (I'm one of them), and it certainly wasn't a huge step down for the filmmaker. Joy, his adaptation of the life of Joy Mangano, the creator of the "Miracle Mop", is his attempt to again recapture that same magic while focusing on his ongoing obsession with broken families.
What's Great About the Movie: Very little. Jennifer Lawrence probably comes the closest to being something worth recommending about the film, but even she is ferociously miscast as Mangano, with a role that was aching for a somewhat older actress. Lawrence does her best with the material, and get some nice moments, but it's an uphill climb the entire way. I'll also add that her scenes with Bradley Cooper at QVC inject some much needed life into the film, but those are far too fleeting.
What's Not-So-Great About the Movie: Everything else. It's like someone decided to make a parody of a David O. Russell movie, with the worst dialogue you could imagine throughout. It doesn't help that capable performers like DeNiro, Edgar Ramirez, and Virginia Madsen are utterly wasted on subpar material. It's also a tonal disaster, not able to decide if it wants to be gritty, or magically realist, and failing at both when it attempts to do so. The film never really makes a great argument for why Mangano is a character worth rooting for, other than the fact that you're supposed to root for your protagonist. This was an idea that sounds better on paper than on celluloid. I just ended up being embarrassed for everyone involved.
Final Verdict: There are many better things you can do with your time other than watch Joy: go to the grocery store, clip your toenails, bang your head with a rock. All would be a more worthy way to spend your afternoon than watch Russell continue to sink his goodwill from The Fighter. Wasn't that an enjoyable movie? Why don't you pull out that Blu-ray instead?