Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.
So, here is what I watched this past week:
David O. Russell takes risks. It’s an admirable quality in a filmmaker, but Russell has such a strong formula that even when he takes risks, it seems stifled by his own rigidity. Take for example, Joy, which ushers forth another terrific Jennifer Lawrence performance but is hamstrung by a hamfisted plot that is stretched just beyond credulity.
The story, about the woman who invented the Miracle Mop, is structured like American Hustle, building from one bizarre moment to the next and all leading up to the twist ending that’s as outlandish as the preceding narrative would have you believe. Unlike American Hustle, the humor here is tempered by a corny pastiche to old daytime serials as a parallel to the seemingly unusual rise to power of a self-made woman.
The depth of character here is often cheap and too often outlandish. Lawrence may be the central focus, but everyone around her is a caricature that seems drawn straight out of the serials her mother (Virginia Madsen) watches incessantly. Given these restrictions, the cast does a passable job with the effort. Robert De Niro may seem at home as Joy’s selfish, father, but Isabella Rosselini is frustratingly one-note as his future girlfriend and initial financier of Joy’s new business venture. Edgar Ramirez is suitably charming and dependable as Joy’s co-habitating ex-husband and emotional support while Bradley Cooper is laughably over-the-top and simultaneously subdued as the QVC producer who gives Joy her first break. Diane Ladd is the grounding force of the film as Joy’s confident grandmother, yet Madsen is dull and overindulgent.
This is a first-rate cast playing disposable and generic characters. Russell may have been attempting to emulate the daytime serial motifs in his film, but in doing so he shortchanges his own creative energy and creates a mess of a film as a result.