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'Joy' and 'The Danish Girl' - Reviewed

13/01/2016 17:32 GMT | Updated 13/01/2017 10:12 GMT

JOY

David O. Russell / Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro / ...

Joy, also known as: Everyone else fucked up, so I have to clean up... because that's seriously all this film is.

Loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano - a self-made millionaire - it's an inspirational tale of overcoming personal and business obstacles in search of rags-to-riches glory. Her invention that kickstarted it all? The Miracle Mop.

One could argue it's a fabulous feminist piece. Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in an overcrowded, dysfunctional home which contains her divorced parents, her ex-husband, two kids, a half-sister and, importantly, her grandmother, Mimi (Dianne Ladd). Her mother is a TV addict (and never achieves anything) but Mimi inspires Joy to go further and fulfil her inventive desires. Thus, Joy gives the finger to men everywhere and mops up the mess and grief they cause her. Am I getting it through to you yet? The Miracle Mop is some weird feminist metaphor for women succeeding. Yes... a cleaning product. It's a bizarre prop symbol, but it works. Now, you'd expect the film to entirely revolve around this concept, right? Sadly, it doesn't.

If there was no inherent need to rush through a brief biopic of Joy's life up till the point of her breakthrough invention then the film could have 1) been shorter, 2) been concise, and 3) conveyed the main message more effectively. Which leads us to the script itself - it's pants. Well, that and there's an extreme underlying case of 'fanboy'. Let it be known - David O. Russell has a Scorsese crush. The script is a rushed mess of quick-fire dialogue that really wants to work like GoodFellas, but doesn't. There's a sprinkle of Rolling Stones tunes in the soundtrack; the characters are Italian-American; and to top it off he actually uses Robert De Niro! Eurghhhh get a GRIP, Dave.

But, despite enduring the inane first half, it did grow on me. When Joy gets invited to present and sell her product on QVC thanks to Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) we see more emotion because of the payoff aaand suddenly the plot takes off because, hey, this is what we wanted to watch! Then I remembered... WHY IS THIS ONLY HAPPENING HALFWAY THROUGH THE BLOODY FILM??

The acting is alright. You think Bradley Cooper's going to get a bigger role in the plot then he's gone, making a cameo at the end to fill some kind of absurd "I'm here to emphasise you're better than me" plothole. De Niro and co. are typically solid as the friends and family. And then Jennifer Lawrence: there's no development, there's no transition. She hits rock bottom then SNAP she gets angry and wins. However, she plays the 'down-to-Earth-American-Gal' quite well. Regardless, it ain't her best, guv'nor. Check the film out if you're a fan of Russell or Lawrence. Otherwise just pick something else - same old, same old.

David O. Russell's New Year's Resolution: STOP COPYING SCORSESE.

(*)(*)(*)

CLICK HERE FOR THE TRAILER

THE DANISH GIRL

Tom Hooper / Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander / Drama / 2016 / 12A / 119 mins

The Danish Girl... seems pretty vague, dunnit?

Without seeing the trailer you'd presume this was some kind of cray anthropology doc on the quintessential Danish lass. Fear not, Tom Hooper's film focuses on the true story of Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne), formerly Einar Wegener, a painter from 1920's Denmark. When I say 'formerly' I mean it in the truest sense, for Einar knew from a very young age that he was woman trapped in male form.

Since Dallas Buyers Club, in particular Jared Leto's outstanding Oscar-winning performance, Hollywood has become a hotbed for transgender flicks. This flurry has coincided with a cultural shift in Western views to the LGBT movement. 2015 not only saw gay marriage legalised in conservative countries such as the US and Ireland, but also the emergence of Caitlyn Jenner as a global celebrity and campaigner. It could be argued, therefore, that Tom Hooper nabbed the script from the Blacklist to ride the proverbial populist wave, and that resulted in one problem - it seems he didn't really read the script.

Einar Wegener was the first man to undergo permanent surgery to become a woman - it's a brave story that will doubtless inspire thousands of people. Redmayne plays his role with dignity and conveys femininity with aplomb. The acting all round is fantastic. The sets seem authentic, and it's shot very well. So where does it all go wrong? I was trying to work this out. Was I missing something? No, I wasn't. It really was a case of "It's not me, it's you."

The script: it's bland and thin on material. There's this central story, and it starts with promise, but for some reason Einar's wife, Gerde (Alicia Vikander), throws rationality out of the window when Lili/Einar straight up cheats. Gerde refuses to see how Einar could 'change' and abandon their marriage. You have to presume a lot of information till it's confirmed much later (Einar's illness springs to mind - random nose bleeds are played off as rather casual in Denmark, are they??). An eclectic display of being sure-then-unsure about his gender could possibly be a neat representation of Einar's confused mind. Nah, I don't think so, the erratic nature of the plot leaves drawn out silences scattered throughout - are we simply to observe the actors? IS THIS A ZOO??

I'll admit, The Danish Girl looks tranquil, aesthetically beautiful, and is what you'd expect when Tom Hooper is at the helm. Redmayne and Vikander excel, watch this at the very least for their performances alone. It's one of those movies that could, and should, have been edited much better, and of course the script lacked focus. Was it rush-released to coincide with the transgender buzz? I wouldn't be surprised, but it's backfired spectacularly.

It's timid, conservative in approach and does little justice to Lili Elbe's story.

(*)(*)(*)*

CLICK HERE FOR THE TRAILER

Find all of Harry's articles & reviews at The HEC Review.

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