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Joy (6/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 124 minutes.

OK for children.

If this is a comedy, I’m Babe Ruth. The title should have been “misery,” even though the film is about a woman named Joy. There is no joy in this film. The titular Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) is surrounded by her hatefully dysfunctional family members who are hostile to her, her father (Robert DeNiro), half sister, Peggy (Elizabeth Röhm), and mother, Terry  (Virginia Madsen), are no help at all. The only people on her side, seemingly, are her grandmother, Mimi (Diane Ladd) who keeps encouraging her, and her divorced former husband, Tony (Edgar Ramirez), who staunchly remains on her side throughout.

The problem is that director, co-writer David O. Russell took a script by Annie Mumolo about Joy Mangano, who made a fortune starting on QVC, and added characteristics from lots of other women he has known, so that the term “based on a true story” has even more dubious veracity than normal, even in Hollywood. I’ve seen the real Joy on television and she’s nothing like the way Lawrence portrays her. She’s smiling and seemingly happy. Lawrence’s Joy is perpetually unhappy, even at the end when she’s achieved enormous success.

The result is that you really can’t believe much of anything you see in this film and, unfortunately, the story Russell tells isn’t worth seeing for the fiction and unhappiness he inflicts upon the audience throughout the film.

And apparently on his cast, too. The story is that Lawrence threw a fit at one point and the two were screaming at each other. That bad karma certainly shows through in this movie because it’s not a happy sit.

Bradley Cooper fans will be disappointed because his role is little more than a cameo. If there isn’t going to be a romance between Jennifer and Bradley, why put him in the movie for a role that could have been adequately filled by someone from Central Casting, except that Russell recently has tried to get all three, Lawrence, Cooper, and DeNiro in his films if at all possible.

Spoiler alert. The denouement, in which Joy confronts one of her protagonists, is so ridiculous it defies credibility. The guy is adamant and tough and unyielding, and then caves like a broken girl scout cookie with just one paltry threat from Joy. Never in a million years. Russell should have run this through someone who knew something about business and the real world before he foisted it on his audience and come up with something more realistic and believable. But, as I’ve said before, this is a Hollywood movie.

This picture proves that a great cast a great movie does not necessarily make.