A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Joy (David O. Russell, 2015)

A thoroughly conventional movie with an exceptional cast that features what seems to be the core of writer-director David O. Russell's stock company, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, Joy is the kind of feel-good underdog-against-the-odds movie with screwball touches that could have been made at almost any time in Hollywood history. I can easily imagine it in the 1940s with Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray, for example. Joy Mangano (Lawrence) was a brilliant student in high school, but she didn't go on to college, and now struggles to make ends meet, while dabbling with ideas for inventions. A divorcee, she lives in an unusual household: In addition to her two children and her grandmother (Diane Ladd), the ménage also includes Joy's mother (Virginia Madsen), who spends her days in bed watching soap operas, and Joy's ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez), who lives in the basement. Joy's father (Robert De Niro) also joins the household after splitting from his latest wife, but he soon takes up with Trudy, a wealthy widow (Isabella Rossellini). When Joy comes up with the idea for a self-wringing mop, Trudy agrees to help finance it. Joy has to contract the manufacture of some of the mop's parts, and she struggles to market it until the idea comes to sell it on TV. She approaches the QVC shopping channel, where an executive, Neil Walker (Cooper), takes an interest in the product. It becomes a big seller, but then the company Joy contracted to make the parts claims ownership of the design. Facing bankruptcy, Joy fights the claim, wins, and becomes a huge success, marketing other household products. There's a real-life Joy Mangano on whose story the film is based, with the usual disregard for accuracy. Lawrence got an Oscar nomination for her performance, which is, as always, wonderful. She gives the film more than it deserves, and the supporting cast measures up to her. But there are few surprises in the story or in Russell's treatment of it, unlike his previous films with Lawrence and Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013).

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