How did I acquire such a firearm? You will have to experience the film to be entered into the full dynamics of this psychological offering. But I can tell you this: the rules of fictional worlds are essential to a protagonist’s journey, from the dictates of Fight Club to the protocol of giving someone else’s wife a foot massage in Pulp Fiction. The procedures laid down by each tale are typically key points of high drama, for our own auditory pleasure.
In Joy these rules are delivered with the added thrill of Italian accented romance that comes as standard with Isabella Rossellini. In her speech regarding the Four Rules of Business we are the target and she hits the spot. To give you a sneak preview, the main thing you need to ask your soul is this: “You are in room and there is a gun on the table. The only other person in the room is an adversary in commerce. Only one of you can prevail. Do you pick up the gun…”?
Joy needs her imaginary gun because she is entering into the world of business without a killer instinct. This is the self-development of an intelligent small-town woman with creative talent, an orientation towards family, and its respective values.
Matriarchal compassion, however, has no place in boardroom pitches. As Joy picks up the gun, we are initiated into an understanding of how to do so too. She might need to cut some corporate throats, but only when there is no other choice. It is here that we see how director David O’Russell understands the territory and this particular aspect of the human condition. This forms the film’s central dilemma: Joy isn’t in it for the thrill of the kill, but she realises there is going to be a body-count. Inspired by the true story of a daring woman; the revelation of this woman’s character is to know that to succeed, is also to pick up the gun.
Joy might just be the perfect film genre in itself; a mainstream-friendly hybrid that pushes film form forward. This is a classic piece of storytelling, epic in form, multi-generational in cast – and not a million miles away from the structural telling of Goodfellas in its relationship with time, autobiography and the American Dream. The soundtrack will give you rushes of hope, inspiration and sometimes even the possibility of falling in love as Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) and Tony (Edgar Ramirez) meet cute and divorce cute too, to the sound of Sinatra amongst others.
As an epic, however, it is peculiar in its successful delivery of comedic content, and you can expect inappropriate outbursts from DeNiro at family weddings, as well as his hilarious – yet successful - experiences with a telephone dating service. The most surprising aspect of O’Russell’s offering is the seriousness with which the director has respected the invention of the self-wringing mop. As a real-life practitioner in the art of Zen, O’Russell has levelled the playing field of everyday items and Hollywood glamour. The director’s spiritual philosophies are never directly referenced, although the teachings are transferred and supported through the narrative’s subject matter and production values.
The surrounding cast of well-established heavy-weight actors provides the mundane with meaning and our eager anticipation of forward-momentum as Joy strives to make 50,000 mop sales via an online shopping channel (inner guns and mop heads blazing). It is the fact that the ordinary is occupying a major motion picture landscape – and that it is doing so with all of the gusto of The Rolling Stones' You Can’t Always Get What You Want - that makes Joy a unique trip, and one through which everyday audience aspirations are also made possible. If Bradley Cooper’s corporate spiel is to be believed: ‘The ordinary meets the extraordinary every single day’.
You will delight in Joy’s invocation of the badass, the cropping of her hair, and the way she can swagger just as well as any Tarantino chick. Now get your shades on and come down to FACT to pick up this gun, cos the world doesn’t owe you a thing.
Joy is currently showing at FACT. Click here to book tickets.