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20th Century Fox // PG-13 // May 3, 2016
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted May 17, 2016 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Though it received mixed reviews during its theatrical run, I was looking forward to seeing Joy. The movie did earn star Jennifer Lawrence a Golden Globe award as well as an Oscar nomination and it teams her once again with Bradley Cooper and director David O. Russell who also worked together on Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. On top of that, I've always been a sucker for strong female protagonists, so story of a harried housewife who, through intelligence, drive, and sheer stubbornness makes it in the cut-throat world of business was right up my alley. While I really enjoyed watching the movie, and think Jennifer Lawrence did a wonderful job, I admit that the film is flawed and has some problems and you're ability to look past those will determine how much you like it.

Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) is a young woman with no future. Though she was her high school valedictorian she never went to college. Instead she chose to get a job and help take care of her divorced parents. Her father, Rudy (Robert De Niro) owns an auto body shop and has a terrible temper and her mother, Terry (Virginia Madsen) is a recluse who lives with Joy and spends her life in bed watching soap operas. On top of that Joy's ex-husband, a night club singer, lives in her basement but doesn't help out much with their two children. They are all supported on Joy's meager salary as a booking agent for an airline. Things go from bad to worse when Rudy shows up on her doorstep looking for a place to live after his girlfriend kicks him out, and Joy is at her wits end.

Things change for Joy one day. Rudy gets a new girlfriend who happens to be a rich widow, Trudi (Isabella Rossellini). While on Trudi's 55-foot sailboat, a bottle of wine breaks and Joy cleans it up, but badly cuts her hands while ringing out the mop. This gives her an idea: what if there was a mop that you could ring out without having to touch it? Using her daughter's crayons and paper, she designs a strong, absorbent mop that does just that. Pitching the idea to Trudi and using some floor space in her father's shop, Joy starts to manufacture her invention, but getting a product to sell is just the first in a long line of problems she has to overcome.

There is a lot of talent in this film, but this is Jennifer Lawrence's movie. She carries it both as a very talented actress and as the only interesting character in the film. Joy is a fully developed, three dimensional character, and a very interesting one at that. You can see the anger, despair, and panic on her face when a pipe breaks in her house and she doesn't have the money to get it fixed. Her steely determination to get her product to market doesn't clash with the frustrated and desperate young woman either; it is the result of her earlier trials. Whenever Lawrence is on the screen the movie is interesting and that is most of the time.

After having created such a captivating character, it's strange that director David O. Russell (who wrote the screenplay) filled the rest of the roles with paper-thin, lifeless characters. Joy's half-sister is jealous of her younger sibling's ability and undermines it at every step, her mother has given up on life, and her ex is the boy who never grew up, yet the one person who is actually pulling for Joy to succeed. They all have one note to hit, and they play it over and over.

The one thing that's never really explained is Joy's relationship with her family. They're all horrible people, and I never understood why Joy continued to deal with them. It is hard to reconcile the woman who walked in on the head of QVC (Bradley Cooper) in the middle of a meeting and demanded to be allowed to demonstrate her product herself with the one that allows her father to insult her to her face.

These flaws aren't fatal however. The film is still enjoyable to watch and it's impossible not to root for the plucky Joy as fate throws problem after problem in her path.

The Ultra HD Disc:

This combo pack includes the film in 4K UHD on one disc and the Blu-ray version on another. All of the extras are included on the Blu-ray.


The 2160p image looks very good, and it's a bit of a step up from the Blu-ray but not much of one. Finished from a 2K master, the image is strong and the level of detail is very good, but it doesn't have that razor-sharp edge that the best 4K releases have. I'm really glad that all of the 4K releases that I've seen so far have been combo packs because I like to do direct comparisons between the two formats. In this case there is a difference, but you have to really look for it. There's nothing on this disc that will convince someone who things 4K is a waste of money that they're wrong.


The movie comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 which suits it well. There are no explosions or over-the-top fight scenes, but the rear speakers are well utilized. When Joy walks onto the dressing area at QVC, the ambient noise fills the room and gives a sense of the organized chaos that's going on all around her. The music is especially crisp and clear, and the dialog comes through well.


There are no extras on the 4K disc, but the Blu-ray comes with a few. Joy, Strength and Perseverance is a pretty standard making-of docu that runs a bit over 20 minutes and is generally okay. Somewhat better is the Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell interviewed conducted by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Op-Ed columnist Maureen Dowd. While I'm not sure that Dowd was the best person to interview this pair (as she admits during her introduction) it was interesting to hear what the two had to say about their film. The only other extra is an image gallery.

Final Thoughts:

Though the film is flawed, this movie offers a good evening's worth of entertainment. Yeah, some of the characters, aside from the lead, aren't fleshed out, but Jennifer Lawrence is captivating in the role. While the 4K disc isn't much of an upgrade from the Blu-ray, it's still a set up. This combo pack gets a solid recommendation.

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