Joy, David O. Russell (2015)

joy-gallery3-gallery-imageDavid O. Russell is such an odd cat, isn’t he? The movies are uneven and often perilously close to sentimental, but I’ve enjoyed every one of them. I think he thinks in moments rather than stories, rather like a poet; perhaps this helps explain my attraction. What I remember, a couple weeks after seeing this during a rare trip to the multiplex with Wendy, isn’t the satisfying rags to riches narrative promised by the trailer, or the pedantic little essays about being yourself and staying true to your dreams, but the little quirks and eddies off to the side of the story, most of which are narratively or thematically unnecessary, but nevertheless the best parts of the movie. The taciturn Haitian plumber who comes to stay, the fake snowstorm outside the Texas toy shop, the paunchy and enraged would-be auteur QVC presenter, the homespun no-frills shooting range next door, the outrageously inappropriate wedding speech, Bradley Cooper’s mesmeric scansion of QVC’s commercial rhythms (OK, that last one is thematically necessary), and many more. Like Silver Linings Playbook, this movie pretends to be about a lot of Important Things, but it’s the weird little baubles strung on the string of its story that really catch your eye. I could do a whole thing here about America and better mousetraps and cable TV and second wave feminism, but I’d rather just think about Joy’s mother and the Haitian plumber poking their heads into a room, each with a bowl of soup joumou.

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