For a while I’ve been somehow avoiding writing the formulaic film reviews in regard to publishing on the site (though entries from others always welcome), and have been far more fascinated in recording good old movie discussions with others. This notion has not come to fruition at Write out of L.A. – until now. Fellow film nerd Al Robinson and I had a quick verbal interaction about David O Russell’s new film Joy with Jennifer Lawrence, while it is still fairly fresh in our minds. May contain SPOILERS.
Al Robinson: So firstly, what is your initial reaction to the film Joy? Did you like it, yes or no?
Robin Write: I did like it, yes, but not on a grand scale. While seemingly always light and interesting it kept drifting sideways and literally losing the plot in parts. Clearly some issues with the way the film story was constructed, or as Clarence (Moye, of Awards Daily TV) mentioned to me recently perhaps some problems with the film editing. What were your thoughts? I know you liked it.
Al: I did, yes. I liked how at first, this seemed to be playing like a dream to Joy, or more so, like a nightmare. Her family living with her in that house, and how her mom never seemed to leave her bedroom, and was always watching her soap opera. The fact that her ex-husband still lives in the basement, and now her dad is moving in as well. Did you like those elements?
Robin: Yeah, it was set up really well, the first act. It was kind of frantic, funny, but at the same time you felt for Joy, kind of trapped in that house, and job, and surrounded by buffoons essentially. Unfortunately it was too reminiscent of Silver Linings Playbook in that respect, and thus lost some of its originality in some scenes. The mum was not developed, and hardly featured after that.
Al: Ah, okay. I know some people won’t like her, but I did. She was set up to be part of Joy’s motivation. I felt like she was the dark, to her grandma’s light. But for a second, I liked the side-story of the pipes getting clogged, and then Joy having to call a plumber. It set up her mom falling in love with Touissant. What did you think of that side-story?
Robin: I liked the mother, quirky-wise, not that she was a bit useless, she was set up really well, but then kind of forgotten about to an extent. It looked like it was going somewhere when she fell for the plumber – but it didn’t. But then the film is not called Joy’s Mother. (Laughs)
Al: This is true. Okay, let’s talk about her father, Rudy. Did you like him? What are your thoughts on her dad?
Robin: His entrance to the movie was funny for a start, but again his plot-line developed super-fast with Trudy, and that was that. Maybe David O Russell intended this, but Rudy was a crummy father, and kind of represented the lack of support or empathy Joy had from her family. Joy’s relationship with each parent was distinctly different but neither had any closure or redemption. Not with Joy or themselves. Joy was alone ultimately. But it was not a particularly sad movie.
Al: I agree with you that his initial plot was too fast, but I liked how it set up her to discover her idea for the mop.
Robin: How did you see Joy’s parents?
Al: Agreed about how different Joy’s parents were and their relationship to her. I saw Joy’s parents as a means to her wanting to break out and create something meaningful for herself. And for her daughter. By the way, I liked how when Joy is having nightmares of being in the soap opera, one of the actresses is played by Susan Lucci. Okay, so let’s talk about her realizing her idea, and how that came about. I liked all that. The way she was drawing with crayons, and how when she showed her idea, no one took her seriously and thought it was a dumb idea. The fact that she got the idea after trying to mop up Trudy’s boat, and then she cut herself. Did any of that part of the film work for you?
Robin: Yeah, as non-riveting as mops are to me cinematically, that whole sequence was very captivating. Joy is a really great character, her weakness clearly letting those around her hold her back, but through the mop sequence she was not letting anyone stand in her way, and would not take no for an answer.
Al: What did you think of Trudy? I thought she was a bitch.
Robin: Trudy was a little horrid yes. good that she invested, but she was just cruel. As was Joy’s half sister. Such a shame her mother and father were not actually supportive, emotionally.
Al: I felt like if her parents had been more supportive, she might not have been as motivated to do anything. It was like fuel to fire her up. But yeah, her sister was just plain old mean.
Robin: Don’t you feel the Trudy / Rudy relationship kind of felt strange to the film? He started the dating thing, rang her, asked her out, and then they were like a married couple.
Al: Yes and no. I liked that they met and he was able to move out of her basement. But no in that they didn’t seem to have any chemistry beyond just setting up the plot points for Joy.
Robin: Right. That’s true about the parents to motivate her, it just appeared forced, and they were not that supportive when she was making a success, and we did not get to see how the parents were proud or pleased for Joy in the end. There were some really good ideas, and I admit some real high notes from Russell. It just all felt a little messy. Pacing was quick, then draggy, it was funny, then serious, there were long scenes, and quick scenes. It was just not very coherent as a whole. Parts were missing. Honestly the whole thing felt like a rushed adaptation of the book, were they had missed a lot out.
Al: Yeah, I can see that. But I think the last third was more about Joy overcoming the fuck ups of other people, and having to make things right with the plastics company in California that was ripping her off. Did you read the book?
Robin: No. You?
Al: Me neither. I wonder how much was left out, or had been filmed, and then cut. So, anyway, did you like any of the scenes with Bradley Cooper? I liked him. I was happy to see it wasn’t just another romance.
Robin: He was okay. He’s got the right kind of charisma for that character.
Al: And the hair too. (Laughs) Do you wish he had been a bigger character?
Robin: I do in the sense that he was ruthless at first then kind of became a push-over somewhat. Again, something to give Joy to bounce off, which I get.
Al: I was surprised by his arc. I didn’t think it was enough.
Robin: What are your views on the narrative. Did it feel chopped to you? Like parts were blatantly missing?
Al: Hmm. I think overall the narrative worked for me because it kept focus squarely on Joy. What her situation was to what motivated her to her idea and needing help and running into problems with that, to then finding success and then more problems and finally overcoming it all. I liked how cunning she was by the end of the film. The way she handled the Texan was great. I wanted to give her a high five after that. Really, the whole thing worked for me. If it had been longer, I might have started to lose interest, but with what he kept I thought it was just right. Did you like the use of Cream’s I Feel Free at the end?
Robin: I did. The wife thought the ending was a little cheesy – which is was though, right? I didn’t like the end when she was much older, seemed unnecessary. But yeah, the scene with the Texan was a buzz.
Al: I agree with you that we didn’t necessarily need the end scene with her in her office. That coda wasn’t needed.
Robin: To wrap up then, how about we discuss the best thing about the film – Jennifer Lawrence? Go!
Al: She made the film work. It was some of the her best. I thought she was a powerhouse. The way she stood her ground to everyone was fantastic. What did you think of her?
Robin: I didn’t dislike the film in spite of the elements I picked at, but you are right, she made it work. She chewed up every bit of action and dialogue, and was great to watch – she’s sympathetic, she’s hard, she’s funny, and kept everything afloat. It’s a shame the film’s average reception could cost her an Oscar nod. Another “check” by her name as one of the most accomplished actresses around though – of any age.
Al: Do you think she could end up being left off the Best Actress field? That would suck. But shit, you might be right. If the voters don’t like the film, that could effect a nomination for her.
Robin: I don’t think she will get in now. I could be wrong.
More of these Talking Movies entries will be published regularly (I hope), so if you want to get involved, or have anything to say, please email: email@example.com – alliteratively I can be found on Twitter here and Facebook here.