Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Fort Thomas Film Review: The Joys of "Joy"



The red carpet may have been put back in storage after Sunday's Golden Globes, but awards season is just getting started. Here at Fort Thomas Matters, we'll be bringing you coverage of all those films making the awards show circuit this year. What better way to start than with David O. Russell's latest film, Joy?

The film follows the life of Joy Mangano, an inventor and businesswoman. The name “Joy Mangano” might not ring a bell at first, but I can almost guarantee that you've benefited from one of her inventions at some point in your life. In fact, you might even have a few of Mangano's creations in your home right now.

Joy takes viewers into the early days of Mangano's career as an inventor, and shows her struggle to get her most famous invention, the Miracle Mop, up and running while also keeping her family together. Mangano isn't a ruthless, savvy entrepreneur at the beginning of her career. But she is determined, and that makes all the difference in the end.


It's a classic story of the American Dream at its best. Mangano, an Everywoman, rises to the top through sheer will and talent. I'd be willing to bet that there's some aspect of Mangano's life that everyone can relate to while watching the film.

The story of Joy is not just Mangano's story to tell. It includes a collection of characters worthy of their own soap opera. To complete the cast, the film calls upon the talents of Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd, and of course, Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence recently beat out Amy Schumer for the Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Golden Globe for her portrayal of Joy Mangano in the film.

Acclaimed director David O. Russell knows when to hold onto a good thing – he often relies on ensembles he's worked with on previous projects. For Joy, he reunited much of Silver Linings Playbook's core cast, and it certainly paid off. I would never say that Joy's story isn't one worthy of a cinematic showcase, but it's the performances that elevate the film to the next level. It would have been a good film either way, but the cast, especially Lawrence, make it one of the year's better cinematic ventures.

Russell teamed up with Annie Mumolo to create the film's story and script. Russell's writer-director credit isn't uncommon from him. He's penned eight of the twelve films he's directed in his career. Russell has always been skilled at infusing his scripts with the perfect dose of humor, and it didn't hurt that he created the story with the help of Mumolo, who is best known for co-writing Bridesmaids with Kristen Wiig.

Joy often throws the rules of narrative cinema out the window. While some might consider this to have muddled the film's content, I found it to be a sight for sore eyes. Russell takes a story that easily could have been a straight-forward drama full of legal mumbojumbo and worthy of a Lifetime network release, but instead, he sculpts a whimsical and almost fairy tale-esque creation out of it. It's fitting to post this review today seeing as yesterday was the anniversary of Charles Perrault's birthday. Perrault it credited with creating the fairy tale genre of storytelling, and in many ways Joy is a fairy tale. Well, it's a modern fairy tale with a heroine that doesn't need a prince, but instead just needs to believe in herself. A fairy tale for the 2010s.

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