(US - 2015)
Written and directed by David O. Russell. Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Dascha Polanco, Elisabeth Rohm, Ken Howard, Susan Lucci, Donna Mills, Laura Wright, Maurice Benard, John Enos, Alexander Cook, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Melissa Rivers. (PG-13, 124 mins)
With JOY, a loose biopic of inventor, entrepreneur, and HSN personality Joy Mangano, writer/director David O. Russell has started to coast on formulaic tropes that stretch back to 2010's THE FIGHTER and 2012's SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. Like those two justifiably acclaimed films, JOY has a down-and-out protagonist trying to scrape by while being helped but more often hindered by an ostensibly well-meaning but absurdly dysfunctional family. We had Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) in THE FIGHTER, struggling to succeed in the ring while dealing with a crackhead brother (Christian Bale), a pushy mother (Melissa Leo), and a small army of almost comically unpleasant sisters, and Pat Solitano, Jr.(Bradley Cooper) in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, struggling to come out on top with his bipolar disorder while falling for a bitter young widow (Jennifer Lawrence) and dealing with his wacky friends and family, headed by his superstitious, Philadelphia Eagles-obsessed dad (Robert De Niro). Lawrence, De Niro and Cooper all star in JOY (all also appeared in Russell's 2013 Scorsese homage AMERICAN HUSTLE), and Lawrence's title character is largely cut from the same cloth as Micky Ward and Pat Solitano.