What a way to kick off a new year in film. That was my initial thought as the credits began to roll on the latest collaboration between director David O. Russell and a cast that includes, amongst others, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.
This winning combination of performer and director – one which has so far earned Oscars, BAFTAS and Golden Globes for Lawrence and Russell – is at its very best with Joy. It has a fuller and tighter screenplay than Silver Linings Playbook, and character which goes far beyond the hair and costume featured in American Hustle.
Its January release is perfectly timed, and not just because of the award season. Based somewhat on the true story of Joy Mangano – Lawrence recently told Time magazine that Joy is 50% true and 50% O. Russell’s imagination – the film finds Mangano divorced and struggling to deal with the familial chaos that surrounds her.
Her ex-husband is living in her basement; her mother is a soap opera obsessive and reclusive who never leaves her room; her father has just been kicked out of his girlfriend’s home and is in need of accommodation, and all the while she has her children to look after, on top of a dead-end job.
However, when she cuts her hands on glass whilst cleaning, she comes up with the idea to invent a detachable, self-wringing ‘Miracle Mop’, which would be the beginning of a new business venture for her and her family.
The story is one that ties in nicely with the idea of tidying up and changing our lives for the better, which, as millions of people across the world get to work on their new year resolutions, is more potent than ever right now. It’s inspirational on many levels, and I left the cinema feeling pumped, somewhat invincible, and ready to take 2016 on.
More than a morale boaster to get you through the January blues, Joy is another example of cinema’s slow but sure shift in female-driven drama. Opening with the note that the film is “Inspired by the true stories of daring women. One in particular”, that in itself was enough to bring a massive grin to my face.
My grin only grew wider though, as the film progressed and I was treated to scenes featuring four generations of women, fully fleshed out with personalities, come together to argue and laugh and love. I was utterly thrilled and immersed by the development of the titular character over the course of the story, from a person going through the motions, to an independent and strong business woman in a very much male orientated world. All of this was a pleasure to watch.
It’s easy, then, to see why Jennifer Lawrence, an advocate for women’s equal rights, both professionally and personally, would be attracted to such a role. She carries the film on her more than capable shoulders, with a performance of Meryl Streep-magnitude; one filled with confidence, charm, maturity, that further suggests her as one of the greatest actors working today.
With her performance, as well as David O. Russell’s witty writing – his script reminds me of a Wes Anderson film, but with hints of a Roald Dahl-type quirkiness – Joy is exactly just that. It’s laugh out loud funny in places, has award worthy performances and makes the world of business genuinely think exciting.
2016 is off to a great start.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com