Jennifer Lawrence continues her unbeaten streak (OK, I’m choosing to ignore “Serena”) with her regular dream team of director David O. Russell and co-stars Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. “Joy” is slight but succeeds because we want her to succeed.
“Joy” is a real life female empowerment story that plays like a fairy tale. When we first meet Joy Mangano (Lawrence) she’s a young girl making a fairy tale kingdom out of bits of paper. When she’s told a prince would complete the picture she says, “I don’t need a prince,” suggesting that Joy may be headed for her own happily ever after, but will do it on her own terms.
As an adult she’s a single mom struggling to make ends meet. Her ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) lives in the basement, her mother (Virginia Madsen) hasn’t left her bedroom in an alarmingly long time, her passive aggressive sister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm) is more aggressive than passive and now it looks like her pig-headed father Rudy (Robert De Niro) needs a place to crash. Only grandma Mimi (Diane Ladd) provides unconditional love. “My whole life is like some sort of tragic soap opera,” she says.
When Rudy becomes involved with a wealthy widow named Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) a random incident leads to opportunity for Joy to reinvent herself. A red wine spill gives Joy the idea for a new kind of mop, a durable cleaning tool with a head made from a continuous loop of 300 feet of cotton that can be easily wrung out without getting the user’s hands wet. She called it the Miracle Mop and with a sizable loan from Trudy tries to bring her invention to market. She meets with slammed doors until the mop becomes a hit on the home shopping network QVC. Still, even with sales in the tens of thousands she has problems wringing a profit out of her mops.
“Joy” is a thoroughly enjoyable movie elevated by the strength of its performances. The film itself feels a bit sloppy—maybe that’s because there are four credited editors—but Lawrence and cast mop up the mess with top-notch performances.
De Niro often get accused of taking paycheques roles these days but his work in “Joy” proves he’s not on permanent cruise control. As Rudy he’s the worst kind of dim bulb, a hard-headed old-timer with too much confidence. It’s a complex comedic performance that will make you wish De Niro made more movies with Russell and fewer with everyone else (except maybe for Scorsese).
Bradley Cooper makes the most of a small role as the fast-talking QVC executive but it is the third part of Russell’s Golden Acting Triad—Jennifer Lawrence—who brings the joy to “Joy.”
For the second time this year, following “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” Lawrence dominates a big movie by sheer talent and strength of will. As Mangano she’s gritty, funny and completely genuine in a role that should earn her another Best Actress Oscar nomination.
“Joy” is a success story whose fast-paced joyfulness in performance and pacing makes up for the bumpy execution.
Richard’s CP24 reviews about the big movies opening on Christmas Day: Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling in the financial drama “The Big Short,” Quentin Tarantino’s neo-western “The Hateful Eight,” “Joy,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro and Will Smith in “Concussion.”
Richard and “Canada AM” guest host Melissa Grelo discuss the big movies opening on Christmas Day: Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling in the financial drama “The Big Short,” Quentin Tarantino’s neo-western “The Hateful Eight,” “Joy,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro and Will Smith in “Concussion.”
Actress Phyllis Smith has had many jobs in and out of show business.
She was working as a casting associate when director Ken Kwapis fell in love with the way she read opposite the auditioning actors and cast her as Dunder Mifflin saleswoman Phyllis on The Office. She appeared on the hit show for nine years and just as that series wound down she got a call from Pixar.
Inside Out producer Jonas Rivera was flicking around the stations one night when he settled on Bad Teacher, a 2011 comedy co-starring Smith and Cameron Diaz. The raunchy film couldn’t be further afield of Pixar’s family friendly movies, but Rivera liked the sound of Smith’s voice. He knew she was the actor to play one of Inside Out’s main roles, the living embodiment of an emotion in an eleven-year-old girl’s head.
“He picked up the phone and called [director] Pete Docter and said, ‘I think I’ve found our Sadness,’” recalls Smith. “I guess it was the timidity in that scene and the timbre of my voice. That’s the nice thing about working for Pixar, when you get that call they pretty much already know what they want.”
Smith joins an all-star cast — Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler as Fear, Anger, Disgust and Joy respectively — in a film that Variety called, “the greatest idea the toon studio [Pixar] has ever had.”
“Long after we’re gone people will still be watching,” Smith says. “Sort of like the Wizard of Oz.”
Smith, who is much more gregarious in person than her onscreen persona would suggest, is riding high today but it was a long circuitous route to television and film success.
“I started out as a professional dancer,” she says. “A show dancer. No stripping, but there were plumes, feathers, g-strings and all that. I was also in two ballet companies, a jazz company. That was my passion but I had an injury and knew logically it was time for me to make a switch in my career. I was getting older. So I just did what I had to do to pay my bills.”
She worked as a receptionist, an NFL cheerleader and manned the box office at a Los Angeles movie theatre. She dressed as Marilyn Monroe and played Steve Carell’s mother in a deleted scene from The 40-Year Old Virgin, but one job stands out for her.
“I worked for JC Penny in the warehouse tagging the merchandise,” she remembers. “I used to stand there and tag thousands of fishing lures or bowling balls or roller shades, which were heavy as heck to lift around. The people were great to work with but the merchandise was a little challenging.
“I used to stand there, thinking about life, wondering what it is we all have in common because we’re not all given the same opportunity. Some people’s health is impaired when they’re born while others are charmed with intelligence or looks. I thought, ‘There has to be something that we all have. A commonality.’ I figured out that it’s the ability to love. We all, in some form or another, want to love and be loved. That was my big revelation. My lightbulb moment. Also, if you’re standing on a concrete floor, make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes or you’ll pay for it later.”
If you’ve ever looked at someone and wondered what’s going on inside their head—and who hasn’t?—the new Pixar film “Inside Out” tries to provide some answers. Loosely based on the mood swings of director Pete Docter’s twelve-year-old daughter it’s an action adventure set in the subconscious of a young girl.
The set up is simple. A Minnesotan family, Mom (voice of Diane Lane), Dad (Kyle MacLachlan) and eleven-year-old daughter Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), leave their comfortable Midwestern life behind in favour of business opportunities in San Francisco. Riley leaves behind her friends, her school and her beloved hockey team; everything she’s ever known.
Plopped down in a new city, homesick and surrounded by new people, she becomes moody. She’s completely guided by her emotions, which happen to run things from Headquarters, located deep inside her thinking box. In these San Fran days and nights Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) rule the roost, while Joy (Amy Poehler) tries to hold things together. Navigating Riley’s cerebrum, Joy journeys through long term and core memories, the Islands of Personality and Dream Productions to realize it takes a variety of emotions to make a balanced life.
I don’t know if there is such a thing as an instant classic but “Inside Out” is the best argument for creating the term I’ve come across for some time. From dazzling animation, to a script that toggles between childlike wonder and ingenious introspection “Inside Out” is glued together with a degree of emotional acumen not often found in mainstream film. In other words, it will make you laugh, cry and think.
Like the best of Pixar’s work—“Toy Story,” “Up,” “WALL-E”—“Inside Out” works on multiple levels. It is, first and foremost a family film designed to entertain everyone from the young’uns to grandma, but it’s also simultaneously a flight of fancy and a grounded story about growing up that kids (and anyone who has ever been a kid) will relate to. The movie may deal with abstract thought, but the idea that without sadness there can be no joy, and vice versa, is clear as day.
“Inside Out” is a film that will deepen with repeat viewings, which is probably a good thing as when it hits Blu Ray kids are going to want to watch it again and again, and for once, parents won’t mind joining in.
Richard Crouse interviews “Inside Out” star Phyllis Smith.
“I started out as a professional dancer. A show dancer. No stripping, but there were plumes, feathers, g-strings and all that. I was also in two ballet companies, a jazz company. I studied modern dance. That was my passion. I always wanted to be a dancer. Not necessarily an actor. When I came to LA I had an injury and I knew logically it was time for me to make a switch in my career because I was getting older. It was hard to make that decision. For dancers at a certain age there is not a lot to fall back on. So I just did what I had to do to pay my bills. I worked as a receptionist. I worked at a movie theatre. I’d go to my nine-to-five job then I’d change my clothes and get to my movie theatre gig and work the box office until eleven o’clock at night. I did that for three years.
“Before I got to LA I worked for JC Penny in the warehouse tagging the merchandise. I don’t think they do it anymore. I used to stand there and tag thousands of fishing lures or bowling balls or roller shades, which were heavy as hell to lift around. The people were great to work with but the merchandise was a little challenging. I used to stand there, thinking about life, wondering what it is we all have in common because we’re not all given the same opportunity. Some people’s health is impaired when they’re born and they don’t even have that to start with and others are charmed with intelligence or looks or whatever they’re given. I thought, ‘There has to be something that we all have. A commonality.’ I figured out that it’s the ability to love. We all, in some form or another, to love and be loved. That was my big revelation. My lightbulb moment. Also to make sure if you’re standing on a concrete floor to make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes or you’ll pay for it later.”