Have you ever watched a bio pic? They usually do an excellent job of both motivating you to do something with your life, and also to make you feel for the character(s) which the story is based upon.
It’s one of those great guilty pleasures of life which most people are okay with accepting as a “good” pursuit of time when watching film or reading a book.
This week we are going to look at a very recent bio pic and see if it hits the mark.
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Dianne Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini
Director: David O. Russell
released on blu-ray May 3, 2016
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%, Audience Score 56%
The Guardian: ***/*****
David Owen Russell also known as David O Russell is an American director, screenwriter, and producer. He is best known for directing The Fighter, American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook.
This is the third time that Russell has worked with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, and the second time with Robert De Niro.
If you’ve seen anything J Law has been in like ever, then you’ll know she gives a strong performance, and Russell provides excellent direction. But let’s discuss the film in brief first.
Taken from Wikipedia and edited,
In 1989, Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) is a divorced mother of two, working as a booking clerk. She lives with her children, mother (Virginia Madsen), grandmother Mimi (Dianne Ladd), and her ex-husband, Tony (Edgar Ramirez).
Her parents are divorced, and fight whenever her father shows up. Joy and her older half-sister, Peggy don’t get along but Peggy and father Rudy (Robert De Niro) are very close. Her mom spends all day lying in bed watching TV to escape from her life, leaving Joy to run the household.
After divorcing his third wife, Joy’s father starts dating Trudy (Isabella Rossellini), a wealthy widow with some business experience. While on Trudy’s boat, Joy drops a glass of wine, attempts to mop up, and cuts her hands on the broken glass while wringing the mop.
Joy returns home and creates blueprints for a self-wringing mop. She then convinces Trudy to invest in the product. They make a deal with a company in California to manufacture and Joy also pays $50,000 in royalties to a man in Hong Kong who supposedly has created a similar product. The company repeatedly bills Joy for faulty parts they create, but Joy refuses to pay the fees.
Joy needs a quick, easy way to advertise her product, and is able to meet with QVC executive Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper). Neil tells Joy to manufacture 50,000 mops. Joy is advised by Trudy to take out a second mortgage on her home, in order to pay her costs. The first infomercial fails, but when she goes on QVC, Joy and her product become an overnight success. Things look up for the family, with the mop earning thousands of dollars on QVC.
Joy’s grandmother dies suddenly. Rudy and Trudy send Peggy to California to conduct Joy’s company business. Afterwards Peggy tells Joy that she paid the fees. Joy is angry and travels to California to meet with the manufacturer, who refuses to pay her back. Joy discovers that the manufacturer is about to fraudulently patent her design. Her lawyer reveals that there is nothing they can do to prevent this, and Joy is forced to file for bankruptcy. Joy discovers that the manufacturers have been defrauding her the entire time. She confronts the owner, and forces him to pay her back.
Several years later, Joy is wealthy and runs a successful business. She continues to take care of her father, even though he and Peggy had unsuccessfully sued for ownership. Tony remains a valued adviser, and the film ends with her helping a young mother develop a new invention.
So there you have it, even in the summary of the film, it’s clear that the frontrunner of this story is Joy Mangano, because well, the movie is called Joy after all.
But if you haven’t caught on yet, the ensemble cast is problematic and uneven. There is absolutely no question in my mind that Lawrence gives a great performance, but but we don’t get to see her play off of her natrual chemistry of Cooper, the way it’s promised, and her family is a little bit too zany without the obvious conflict.
Pros: It tells a great story of an underdog gone fierce and her ultimate rise to the top of the pile. You really feel for Joy because Jennifer Lawrence does an excellent job portraying her. Russell also has an excellent crafting which provides that title character development.
Cons: The beginning of the movie is dry and doesn’t feel realistic enough to believe in the flawed characters and how Lawrence becomes their matriarch. Also it lacks a lot of humour, and ironically enough joy.
Runtime: 2 hours 4 minutes
Points of Interest: While the title character is named Joy, she is not, in fact, a biographic version of Joy Mangano. Russell created an everywoman with Joy Mangano as the base, and interwove it with stories of other women changing their lives.
It is an interesting film because it does an excellent job to drive the growth of it’s title character, but because the story is fabricated and not handled in such a way to really develop it’s supporting cast realistically, and with the odd humour of life, it doesn’t quite reach it’s goal.
So Joy doesn’t run on all fours throughout it’s arc. But that doesn’t mean it can’t get to its destination nor does it mean that we should discount it as a great example of overcoming adversity. It just doesn’t fit a perfect mold as a film. If you’re a fan of Jennifer Lawrence I have a theory that you won’t be disappointed by her performance, but if you like the Lawrence/Cooper tag team, I can tell you it’s not really there.
Should you give Joy a chance? Yeah I think so. But there are lots of better bio pics out there. See you tomorrow with some wisdom friends.