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Joy: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Joy (2015) movie poster Joy

Theatrical Release: December 25, 2015 / Running Time: 124 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: David O. Russell / Writers: David O. Russell (story & screenplay); Annie Mumolo (story)

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Robert De Niro (Rudy), Bradley Cooper (Neil Walker), Edgar Ramirez (Tony), Diane Ladd (Mimi), Virginia Madsen (Terry), Isabella Rossellini (Trudy), Dascha Polanco (Jackie), Elisabeth Rφhm (Peggy), Susan Lucci (Danica), Laura Wright (Clarinda), Maurice Bernard (Ridge), Donna Mills (Priscilla), Jimmy Jean-Louis (Touissant), Ken Howard (Mop Executive), Ray De La Paz (Tony's Father), John Enos (Roderick), Marianne Leone (Sharon), Melissa Rivers (Joan Rivers), Drena De Niro (Cindy), Isabella Crovetti-Cramp (Young Joy), Emily Nϊρez (Young Jackie), Madison Wolfe (Young Peggy), Aundrea Gadsby (Cristy - 5 years old), Gia Gadsby (Cristy - 5 years old), Tomas Denson Elizondo (Tommy - 3 years old), Zeke Louis Elizondo (Tommy - 3 years old), Alexander Cook (Bartholomew)

Buy Joy from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD • DVD • 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD • Instant Video

As far as I'm concerned, David O. Russell's winning streak remains intact and stands unrivaled by any other filmmaker who isn't employed by Pixar. You can refer me to Accidental Love,
a romantic comedy shot in 2008, finished without Russell, and released early in 2015. But even if you acknowledge the credited Stephen Greene as the director's pseudonym, you're still talking about work conducted prior to Russell's renaissance.

That renaissance began with 2010's The Fighter and continued with 2012's Silver Linings Playbook and 2013's American Hustle. All three drew Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and for Russell as Best Director (in addition to Screenplay nods, the latter two of which he shared). They also earned eleven nominations in the Oscars' four acting categories, three of which resulted in wins. Oh, and as if those accolades and the critical acclaim they reflected were not enough, all three of those movies also turned a big profit at the box office, from $129 million to $250 million worldwide on budgets of just $21 M to $40 M apiece.

Russell, who has somehow emerged from this period of flourishment without an Oscar of his own, continues to rely on a unique creative process and to collaborate with actors he has brought acknowledgment and raves. No amount of embarrassing reports, personal scandal and publicized controversy can detract from the fact that Russell has been making great cinema every year or two since The Fighter restored the luster to a career built on promising indies.

"Joy" stars Jennifer Lawrence as a single mother who invents a miraculous mop and starts a business empire out of nothing more than an idea.

Russell's latest is Joy and you don't have to be an annoying IMDb message board user to notice right away that the filmmaker is standing by his trusted troupe with whom he's succeeded. This time, Jennifer Lawrence, who won Best Actress for Silver Linings and was likely runner-up in Supporting Actress for Hustle, gets to be solo lead. That is, of course, nothing new for her, the current biggest movie star in the world. But it's a change of pace for Russell, whose success has been marked by spectacular ensembles.

Lawrence plays the titular character, the "one in particular" of the "daring women" who the film's opening texts acknowledge as inspiration. Though originally announced as a straight biopic of inventor Joy Mangano, Joy has evolved slightly from that to allow Russell (who shares story credit with Bridesmaids' Annie Mumolo but alone is credited with screenplay) some creative license. Still, though her surname is never uttered, the movie is clearly based on the life of Mangano, who numbers among the film's producers.

Narrated by Joy's beloved Mimi (Diane Ladd), whose belief in her granddaughter never wavers, the film opens with Joy a child (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp), playing carefree outside the auto shop of her father Rudy (Robert De Niro) in the unspecified past. Joy soon grows up and becomes Lawrence, a 20-something mother of two young children with an ex-husband living in her basement. The short, failed marriage to Tony (Ιdgar Ramνrez), a Venezuelan with ambitions to become the next Tom Jones, is briefly detailed. He remains present as a friend and advisor to Joy, who has worked all sorts of jobs since staying at home to be close to her divorcing parents instead of going away to college.

Joy's network of support includes a daughter, an ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez), her father (Robert De Niro), and his new girlfriend (Isabella Rosselini).

Rudy is dropped off by his third wife to live with Joy and he gets assigned half of the basement (a line of toilet paper divides his portion from Tony's). The modest abode also houses his second ex-wife, Joy's mother Terry (Virginia Madsen), whose obsession with watching soap operas in bed knows no bounds. The house is falling apart and Joy is the only one trying to keep it together.

She thinks she might be better equipped to do that if her latest idea pays off. It is a self-wringing, highly absorbent mop, soon to be known the world over as the Miracle Mop.
Joy is convinced it's a solid idea and she makes sure to patent this one, unlike the fluorescent flea collar she conceived as a child. She pitches the idea to Rudy's new girlfriend, wealthy Italian widow Trudy (Isabella Rosselini), who subjects her to questioning to ensure the business model is well-founded.

The movie follows through on Joy's multi-million dollar idea, which at first glance looks anything but certain. She overcomes a shaky start to impress the head of the burgeoning home shopping network QVC (a brief but effective Bradley Cooper), who watches the ticker announce thousands of product sales in mere minutes like a maestro of business. There is some contention regarding manufacturing and the business looks doomed when Joy has to take out a second mortgage. But people don't make movies about failures and Joy's story, as you can tell, is an uplifting one.

QVC President Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) points out to Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) where the sales numbers are tracked on a marquee near the shopping network's set.

Though beneficially classified as a Comedy or Musical by the Golden Globes like Russell's two previous films, Joy is not as consistently funny as those and even the drama-classified The Fighter. There's an atmosphere of diversion, which we've now come to expect from Russell. The chaotic family scenes amuse and recall those of Silver Linings, although with the possible exception of Terry, no one here seems mentally ill. While interesting characters abound (per usual for Russell), the show truly and fully belongs to Lawrence,
who has done a miraculous job of using her tentpole-fueled stardom exclusively for good. It was five years earlier that Lawrence first turned up on Hollywood's radars for the tiny little indie drama Winter's Bone. That Oscar-nominated performance paved the way for Mystique and Katniss Everdeen, but Lawrence has decidedly classed up those highly respectable mainstream vehicles, being a young leading lady like no other before her. Her collaborations with Russell rank among her finest work and Joy continues that admirable trend. While this broke the director's streak of multiple acting Oscar nominees, Lawrence did get a nomination, astonishingly her fourth and she's only 25. If she hadn't already won one (and hadn't won the one she lost because she already won), she probably would have been the runaway frontrunner too.

Joy is not as focused and arresting as Russell's three previous hits, but it still makes for a substantial and entertaining experience. The director's signature is easily noticed, from his increasingly nimble camerawork to a soundtrack that is heavy on fitting period tunes. There is humor, there is rich characterization, and there is commendable acting from veterans and up-and-comers who won't find better opportunities anywhere else in Hollywood. You expect doors to be opened, at least for the young and attractive Ramirez and Elisabeth Rohm, who seizes a bigger role than she had in Hustle as Joy's contentious half-sister Peggy.

Russell has been so widely celebrated for his recent work that some contrarian backlash is virtually inevitable. You see it all the time on the Internet from people who are so hip that they lament the Russell who made Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees. Joy may not be as strong as the filmmaker's three consecutive Best Picture contenders, but it is still a very strong film and one that tells a woman's story with nary a concern for romance. Many will compare it to Erin Brockovich, and the fact that there isn't a more recent film than that 2000 Julia Roberts Oscar winner illustrates that women are too often marginalized in film as the love interest and the thankless secondary figure.

You don't have to care about women's representations in film to want to see Joy. All you need to do is have a taste for good movies driven by story, characters, great acting, and first-rate direction.

Drawing mixed reviews from critics, Joy did not reach the same heights as its predecessors. It also failed to turn a profit, its $56 million domestic and $101 million worldwide grosses not enough to offset the steep (for Russell) $60 M production budget.

Just in time for Mother's Day, Fox released Joy to DVD and Blu-ray last Tuesday. We cover the latter here.

Joy: Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 5.1 DTS (Castilian Spanish, Russian), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, French, Portuguese, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French, Castilian Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Estonian, Hindi, Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available as DVD ($29.98 SRP), 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD ($39.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video


Joy looks good on Blu-ray. Shot on film, the 1.85:1 presentation is a touch rawer and grainier than many of its contemporaries as desired. The Blu-ray's fine picture and sound raise no concerns. Upping its global appeal, Fox loads the disc with foreign subtitles as well as several dubs.

Bradley Cooper discusses his third consecutive collaboration with David O. Russell in "Joy, Strength and Perseverance." Maureen Dowd moderates a Times Talks panel showing us first-hand the special friendship of Jennifer Lawrence and her three-time writer-director David O. Russell.


The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with "Joy, Strength and Perseverance" (20:21), a making-of featurette comprised of cast/crew talking heads and film clips. It's more leisurely paced and thoughtful than your ordinary, slick EPK piece, which makes up for the complete lack of behind-the-scenes footage.

Next, we get a long Times Talks panel (1:07:42) in which emotional New York Times writer Maureen Dowd speaks with Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell before a polite, sophisticated audience that includes Lawrence's parents.
The final eight minutes open the floor to audience questions. Among the interesting topics raised are Russell pitching an Emma Frost movie, reflecting on Quentin Tarantino's similar career rebirth, fans asking for pictures, Lawrence's singlehood and quotes, and the 2016 presidential race, which Russell uses to talk about the Roosevelts and the Gulf War. There is a mix of snark, substance, and humor that makes this memorable and worthwhile. It also gives us a genuine look at the actress and director's unique marriage-like relationship.

The extras conclude with a 7-image gallery of publicity stills that you can navigate or have auto-advanced. What a bizarre inclusion in 2016.

Surprisingly, neither Joy's trailer nor any others are found on the disc.

The menu loops a brief, basic, scored montage of screen-filling clips.

Though online images suggest otherwise, my review copy of Joy came with no slipcover, its full-color disc accompanied by a Digital HD insert inside an eco-friendly keepcase.

Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) cuts her hair and gets down to business in the film's Dallas-set climax.


Joy might not have drawn the awards recognition and box office returns of David O. Russell's previous three films, but this sincere, human dramedy delights in a similar way, with more fine work from the director's trusted stable of actors. Fox's Blu-ray is light on extras but the featurette and Times Talks panel are better and more distinctive than most bonus features. While I'd be quicker to recommend buying Russell's three prior hits, this one is worthy of a place in your collection alongside them.

Buy Joy from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Directed by David O. Russell: Silver Linings Playbook • American Hustle • The Fighter • Accidental Love
Jennifer Lawrence: The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection • Winter's Bone • The Beaver
Bradley Cooper: American Sniper • Burnt • The Hangover • The Words
Robert De Niro: Goodfellas • Everybody's Fine • The Intern • Marvin's Room • Last Vegas
2016 Best Actress Nominees: Room • Brooklyn • Carol • The Lady in the Van • Grandma
New to Disc: The 5th Wave • The Boy • Regression • Jane Got a Gun • Tumbledown
Big Eyes • Julie & Julia • August: Osage County

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Reviewed May 8, 2016.

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