Joy movie poster

Writer-director David O. Russell serves notice that there have always been multi-generational stories of strong women who figure out how to make their way in a so-called man’s world — on television soap operas. He even helpfully opens this (based-on-a-true) story of one woman’s (Jennifer Lawrence) struggle to become the inventor/CEO of her childhood dreams on the set of the soap that Mama watches instead of, you know, living a life. Perhaps less helpfully, he soaps up the movie itself something fierce, with weird results. The battle against a naysaying world is far-fetched, overblown, and melodramatic, but still okay, because it’s basically fun. (Schematics in crayon? A secret passage onto the factory floor? Sure, why not?) The intrafamilial stuff, however, feels like a fever-dream of impersonal intimacies. (Hey, let’s talk business graveside!) By the time Dad (Robert De Niro) starts apologizing for ever helping Joy to believe in herself, it’s clear that the point here isn’t people, it’s payoff, emotional and otherwise. 2015.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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