Sunday, December 27, 2015

Joy [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review  

Joy [2015] (directed and screenplay by David O. Russell, story in part by Annie Mumolo) continues a remarkable run of generally quite _excellent_ blue collar-ish / "regular people" oriented films by the writer / director - The Fighter [2010] (4 Stars), Silver Linings Playbook [2012] (2 1/2 Stars), American Hustle [2013] (3 1/2 Stars).  Indeed, I'd put this film as his best yet.

Why do I prefer this one over the others?  I believe that this is still _the least_ "exotic" of Russell's "studies" of the the trials / tribulations of regular people.  The Fighter [2010] was still about boxing and though life is often a fight / challenge, very few people actually box for a living.  The Silver Linings Playbook [2012] may have been about some quite ordinary people but several in the film were struggling with some rather particular (and certainly as presented, rather exotic) psychological conditions.  American Hustle [2013] was about a couple of fairly low key "con artists," and while most people may occasionally "flirt in their minds with the darkside," very few are actual "con artists."

The current film, Joy [2015], is about Joy Mongano (played beautifully by Jennifer Lawrence) a woman from suburban Long Island, who while certainly quite smart (she was the valedictorian of her high school class, but then there are many high schools, all over the country, each with a valedictorian, best student, each year) would have appeared to any of us as an otherwise utterly unremarkable person ... 'CEPT ... she made her mark on the world by ... reinventing _the mop_  ;-).  More precisely, she invented a simple self-wringing "miracle mop" with a "when you're done, just throw it in the wash" mop-head ;-).

Many of the reviewers that I list above expressed the concern: Can a movie about a quite average young woman from a quite unremarkable family who "reinvented _the mop_" POSSIBLY be "compelling"?

 Well folks, IMHO what she went through _in her family_ with her initial business contacts, etc, MADE FOR A SURPRISING yet CERTAINLY COMPELLING STORY ;-)

For honestly, HOW does one "make a mop" -- even a prototype -- and then proceed to make them on a larger, approaching "industrial scale"?  Even the simplest mop would need 3-4 parts -- a pole, a mophead, a means to attach the mop-head to the pole.  Those parts have to be bought / made and assembled. Then Joy's "miracle mop" was a bit more complicated than the "simplest mop."   For this basic mop to become "self wringable" would require additional parts -- at least some kind of spring, some kind of lever as well as attachment devices / fasteners to them (so maybe 10 or as many as 15 parts, some needing to be specially molded / made).  How does one go about getting those parts made / assembled?  Finally, while a "self-wringable miracle mop" may seem like a great idea, "somebody, somewhere" could have come up with the idea already and if not then if the product proved a success, "somebody, somewhere" or perhaps a fair amount of "somebodies, somewhere" would want to steal the idea to make "knockoffs."

Okay Readers, you're a quite average person like Joy from a quite average family with its inevitable "assortment of characters" --  Joy's (divorced) parents Rudy and Terry (played by Robert De Niro and Virginia Madsen); Rudy's new-to-the-scene (and surprisingly moneyed) widowed girlfriend Trudy (played marvelously by Isabella Rossellini); Joy's grandmother Mimi (played by Diane Ladd) who actually narrates good parts of the story; Joy's own ex-husband Tony (played by Édgar Ramírez); her best friend since childhood Jackie (played by Dascha Polanco) and Joy's half-sister Peggy (played by Elizabeth Röhm) -- all trying to be (kinda) helpful, while (some) being naturally _kinda jealous_, and very few actually having a clue, with certainly no one being able to easily articulate what to do.

So the story involves _a lot_ of blind "flailing around" even after Joy gets a "shot in the dark" meeting (thanks to a quite random lead from her still nice guy ex-husband Tony) with QVC cable channel executive Neil Walker (played by Bradley Cooper) who gives her product a shot on his Home Shopping(like) Network.  And even with the moderate success that follows, it becomes clear that almost _everybody_ (and I mean everybody from family (naturally), to seemingly random but both well-hidden / well-placed mob-like characters) wanted a piece of her and her newly earned / hard earned money.

Indeed, Joy becomes the Ulysses of "entrepreneur fables."  It becomes a _compelling_ (you're right there beside her, cheering her on) story about HER and ... _her mop_ ;-)

And one's left honestly wondering: Oh my! if it's THIS HARD to (1) come up with, (2) manufacture, (3) sell and finally (4) DEFEND something as _simple_ as a "self-wringing mop" HOW DOES ANYTHING GET MADE?? ;-)

Beyond that, what makes the story remarkable for a blog like this is that DESPITE "the cast of characters at home" and DESPITE A LOT OF FRUSTRATION / FLAILING AROUND and even SHAKE-DOWNS and (arguably) BETRAYALS Joy _remains_ NICE, yes TOUGH at times but still fundamentally NICE to that "cast of characters at home."


So good job folks!  Very, very good job!

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