Nothing makes one so sexy as success – JOY, the movie

I have to admitt, there is no doubt: Nigeria or India might produce more movies than any other nation, and maybe in France or Italy the national cinematography is more recognised as part of their cultural identity, and in Germany movie production perhaps receives higher state sponsoreship than anywhere else. But when it comes to creativity and quality, nothing can compete with movies from the US. And I don’t mean the blockbusters like Star Wars or the like. I am talking about the movies that have a great personal story to tell (like all the Woody Allen ones), or movies that by the experimental style will stay in our mind for years (like the David Lynch or Robert Altmann or Jim Jarmush ones).

Yesterday we went to watch “Joy” by David O. Russell.  Although it plays in US lower middleclass, its characters so much reminded me of the figures that some decades ago were frequently portrait in east-german movies who portrait young woman and their struggle against a society pre-determine fate.

On paper, “Joy,” looks perfectly straightforward, even square. It’s a bootstrap-capitalist fable, a tale of adversity overcome and rags exchanged for riches, a case study in success suitable for a self-improvement seminar. But Mr. Russell likes to tell conventional stories in unconventional ways.  Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself thwarted and undermined by her own family. In the film’s opening scenes, her various relations nearly erase her altogether, blocking Ms. Lawrence’s quiet incandescence with ugliness and noise. The divorced mother of two young children, Joy left college when her parents split up and now contends daily with a small army of needy narcissists. Her mother, Terry (Virginia Madsen), lies in bed all day watching a soap opera (a fake one that Mr. Russell has cast with real-life soap opera stars). Rudy (Robert De Niro), Terry’s ex-husband, acts like a helpless child when he’s single and like an entitled patriarch when there’s a woman in his life. Joy also has a passive-aggressive sister (Elisabeth Rohm) and an ex-husband of her own, who is living in her basement until his singing career takes off.

Just when you begin to wonder where the movie is going — Toward domestic comedy? Second-chance romance? Lurid dysfunction? — Joy has an idea. Sketching with her children’s crayons, she invents a new kind of mop, the kind that can be wrung out without touching the head. (This household convenience really exists, and the character is very loosely based on its inventor and her career.) Flush with entrepreneurial zeal, Joy borrows money from her father’s new companion (a supremely haughty Isabella Rossellini), works out the patent and supply-chain issues, and prepares to revolutionize American floor cleaning.

What struck me during the film:  There was obviously (and acustic unmistakably) a large crowd of female activists in the cinema. During the first 30 minutes of the movie they used to giggle a lot, because there were plenty of scenes showing the silly men around Joy (her dad and her ex-husband). I had the feeling the feminist faction came to the movie mainly for this reason. Later, however, when Joy started to fight her way through the odds and step by step had some success, the woman in the audience get more and more speachless.  I guess they also did not like the idea of the movie that Joy during her fight through the capitalist system did not lose her physical beauty. I read through a couple of viewers comments today at IMDB, and it very much confirmes my observation: the comments by female critics are devastating (“movie is boring”, “not realistic” etc etc),  wheras the mans gave it high credits and recommended it).

The movie also demonstrated the old paraphrase that nothing is so sexy as success.

And I have to mention the great sound-track:

CREAM (“I Feel Free”), SERGEJ PROKOVJEFF (“Cinderella”), RANDY NEWMANN (“Mama Told Me Not To Come”), CARSON PARKS (“Something Stupid”), NEIL YOUNG (“Expecting To Fly”) and many other, including classical guitar and chamber mus8ic pieces.

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