David O. Russell has his first semi-dud since hitting a home run with his last three movies (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle).
Re-teaming up with his muse Jennifer Lawrence and frequent collaborators Robert de Niro and Bradley Cooper (can a muse be a guy?...anyways, moving on...) Joy was a genuinely enjoyable, funny and interesting film...in its first act. Thereafter, director/writer Russell got bogged down by the tedious reality behind every success story and neglected the fundamentals that made his previous dramas worked: the characters, the family and the complicated bonds between them. That resulted in a bloated, overwrought, tedious drama of a fairly interesting person which was wrapped up in one of the laziest, sloppiest, deus ex machina way possible which kind of overwrites all the character development of Lawrence's central character.
The first act was a joy (all pun intended). And a very pleasant surprise. With shades of Silver Lining Playbook. The family members, except for Elizabeth Rohn's half-sister character, played well opposite each other. There were genuinely funny moments and a central character worth rooting for. But as the film dragged on, the laughs got scarcer and scarcer, and characters just got more and more two-dimensional and flat and boring.
Lawrence gave one of her most understated performances since her Winter Bone days. It was not showy nor flashy and she really does embodies the everyday American persona very well. And the girl has great comedic timings. She really should work with Amy Schumer. She anchored the film but the writing of her character failed to live up to its potential, however, if it was not for her, the film may have tanked even more.
The understated star of the show was Diane Ladd. She was fantastic and equally magnetic on screen, giving a real, palpable sense of faith, believe and love.
Virginia Madsen also give a hilarious turn as the mother.
De Niro was let down by his character; Cooper was just a glorified cameo, again playing the role he had always play; Rohm was just out of place with no chemistry with the others and extremely poor justifications for her character; Edgar Ramirez was a fun addition but ultimately just a plot convenience; Isabella Rossellini was wasted although she was a (non-intentional) campy hoot in the first act.
Despite a strong performance by Lawrence, this film failed to live up to the high bar that Russell has set for himself. A fairly enjoyable show that was failed by poor writing.