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Non-Review Review: Joy

Joy is very much a showcase for David O. Russell’s interests, and his excesses.

Russell is a filmmaker with a particular sensibility in style. This is particularly obvious in the way that the director feels continuously drawn to the same performers and themes. As with many of Russell’s films, the cast of Joy is populated by actors who have worked with the director before. This is most apparent in the casting of Russell’s current creative ruse Jennifer Lawrence, who worked with Russell on Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. She is joined by Russell veterans like Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro.

Could the domestic cleaning industry use a shot in the arm?

Could the domestic cleaning industry use a shot in the arm?

Similarly, the film plays to Russell’s particular fascinations; Joy ties together the director’s engagement with Americana and his exploration of dysfunctional family dynamics. Joy places these two themes front-and-centre, but never quite synthesises them into a convincing whole. All too often, it feels like Joy is far more interested in the discordant home life of its female protagonist than all of the historical details it has to weave into her rags-to-riches tale. This causes problems when her journey takes her away from that home, and the film loses interest.

Joy is somewhat overstuffed, its attention wandering as the run-time goes on. For a story about a self-made millionaire whose rags-to-riches success embodies the ideal of the American Dream, Joy often feels quite rote; luxuriating in its depiction of her family life, the movie’s second half feels over extended as it clocks through all the beat expected in a story like this. Its final third is given over to a crisis that feels as obligatory as its resolution is convenient. For a movie about a woman with an ability to see innovation, Joy is trapped by its conventionality.

Talk about a mop top...

Talk about a mop top…

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Non-Review Review: Inside Out

Inside Out represents a glorious return to form for Pixar.

After several years of sequels and middling films, Inside Out feels like a breath of fresh air. Films like Cars 2 and Monsters University were very much safe bets for the company, a way to leverage return from existing (and well-loved) properties. Inside Out is something altogether stranger and more high-concept. It feels like the studio is getting back in touch with its original aesthetic. It is a concept that initially seems quite complex and esoteric, but quickly reveals itself to be a simple emotional fairytale.

Memories are made of this...

Memories are made of this…

Wall-E might have been a half-silent science-fiction film, but it was also a very effective love story. Up might have been a wacky adventure about a flying house, but it was also an insightful meditation on grief and loss. Finding Nemo was populated with colourful fish, but it was also about the experience of watching a child venture into the world. Pixar established and developed a reputation as a studio that could produce films that were accessible and exciting to children, but also packed a more weighty and substantial punch for the parents in the audience.

Inside Out is perhaps the most high of Pixar’s concepts, but it ultimately boils down a very organic and instinctive story meditating on the studio’s core themes of emotional development and family metaphors.

An emotional journey...

An emotional journey…

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