Following hot on the heels of the critical successes of The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, one would think that the latest David O. Russell project would be equally as great. It features his recent go-to threesome of Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert DeNiro, and it takes a more obscure but wholly American story and attempts to infuse comedy, drama, and emotion into what would otherwise be a terrible Lifetime movie. Unfortunately for viewers, Joy is much more Lifetime than it is prime time, and it pales in comparison to the greatness that Russell typically delivers. Based on American Hustle, maybe we should have seen this decline coming, as that film was clearly a step back for the director, but Joy should have had so much going for it and it just could not capture the same magic seen in the rest of Russell’s award-winning filmography.
The Movie (2/5)
Joy follows the story of Joy Mangano (played by Lawrence), a struggling, recently divorced mother of two who still lives with her parents, played by DeNiro and Virginia Madsen. Even worse, she still lives with her ex-husband who has a place in the basement. The ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) is the best part of the film, and by far the funniest character in an otherwise lacking comedy. Basically, Joy is struggling in life, she invents a mop, and sells it on QVC with the help of a slick-talking producer, played by Bradley Cooper. And that’s it. Honestly, there isn’t much more to this film. There are a few funny family moments when everyone is together, similar to scenes previously seen in Silver Linings or The Fighter, but really, it’s a movie about a mother who invented a mop and made some money, which at its core does not make for an entertaining film. Would Joy make for a great episode of Shark Tank, sure, but it struggles mightily as a full-length film.
In the end, Joy is clearly just a Jennifer Lawrence showcase, furthering Russell’s obsession with the young starlet’s uncanny talents and ability to transform into any character, but when that’s all you bring to the table it is hard to create a successful movie. The supporting cast is funny at times, but ultimately not important to the film’s success. Like I said, this is a movie about a mother who invented a mop, and if you took away the big names, it would be an afternoon Lifetime movie. Even though Lawrence received her annual “I’m Jennifer Lawrence/Meryl Streep So Give Me An Award” Oscar nomination, this film needed to be a lot better to garner any serious consideration for the other major categories. David O. Russell should talk to the real Joy Mangano, as he will certainly need a Miracle Mop to clean up this mess of a film and start fresh with his next feature to get back on track.
The Blu-ray picture quality on Joy is very good, but it does not stand out or really impress me, and so the score reflects that in terms of a comparison to other new releases. Any movie filmed in this decade is going to look pretty good on a 1080p transfer due to new technology, so it should come as no surprise that newer transfers have many less issues than an older transfer from film or antiquated digital sources. Joy really isn’t a great film to look at, and it feels pretty gray and dreary throughout. Many scenes in the movie were filmed 10 minutes from my home in Northern Massachusetts, and so I know many of the locations, but I also know the miserable winter season that the filmmakers had to endure during filming; one of the worst in recent history. Unfortunately for the filmmakers (as well as my poor fellow citizens of New England) this makes for a very drab picture in all of the scenes, and so it is definitely not a movie to show off your new display.
The interior sequences and scenes that take place outside of the Massachusetts scenery look a bit more colorful, but they all have a darker tint to them that still makes for a dreary picture. It is definitely not a terrible Blu-ray transfer by any means, but much like the movie itself, it is simply average and it would not stand out in a crowd among other modern films.
The fact that Joy made its way to UHD is a curiosity to me. I understand the push for UHD comes from the studios in an attempt to get early adopters enough product and keep the consumer interested, but this one confuses me. As I previously mentioned, Joy is not a film full of great visuals, and so the UHD version is essentially the same as the 1080p Blu-ray transfer. Also, the film was digitally mastered for theaters in 2K, so this is just another example of a 2K to 4K upscale rather than a true 4K transfer. This seems to be a serious problem with the new UHD format. If studios don’t have 4K digital masters, the UHD format is going to be no better than watching a 1080p Blu-ray and having it upscaled to a 4K display.
The grayness of the Blu-ray does dissipate a bit in the UHD transfer, as the UHD does improve on the color scheme and adds a little variety to the otherwise dreary background. There are moments where I could see the impact that the additional color grade and HDR can have on a movie, but Joy never made me say “Wow” in the way that a UHD copy of something like Mad Max: Fury Road or The Revenant would. If Joy was on the top of your UHD wish list, I would just wait to purchase it, and it certainly does not call for the additional price or a rush to purchase a new TV and UHD player. Overall, it is essentially the same as the Blu-ray, as reflected in the score, and it serves as a poor example of what this new format is capable of.
Both the UHD and Blu-ray feature the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track. Honestly, for a new release this was disappointing. Even though this isn’t really a movie that would sound great on a 7.1 Dolby Atmos track, one of the big features of UHD over Blu-ray is the additional space on the disc, where an Atmos track would fit in just fine. Even on most modern Blu-ray movies, we are seeing more and more 7.1 Dolby Atmos tracks included as the primary audio option, and so for this release to miss the boat on Atmos is a definite negative.
The 5.1 DTS-HD audio is always solid, and Joy does deliver an adequate audio package which is fine for the majority of home theaters. I just expected more from a new release, especially one that is available on UHD. Atmos has been widely available for over a year now, and so if consumers are pushed to adopt a new picture format, why wouldn’t the newest audio format also be included? It doesn’t have a huge impact on this release, and my complaint is more out of frustration with the way the UHD format has been handled so far. Nearly every UHD release has had a 7.1 Atmos track included, and so this goes back to my point about Joy not being an ideal title for the format. The visuals do not command a higher format, and the audio was not good enough to warrant an Atmos track, so why bother with the UHD copy for this release at all?
This is a pretty standard Blu-ray release from Fox. We get a slipcover, a solid blue keepcase, and a Blu-ray disc with a Digital HD code that can be redeemed on either iTunes or any UV provider, like Flixster or VUDU. There is no DVD includes, which has become the Fox standard with any of their more recent releases. The artwork on the cover is pretty lame, featuring just a close-up photo of Jennifer Lawrence. With such a great cast, you’d think there would be better artwork, but this movies really was just a Jennifer Lawrence acting showcase so it makes sense that she is featured.
One thing of note is a Target retailer-exclusive version (pictured above) that seemed to be somewhat limited in stock. It featured a gatefold slipcover, like the one included with The Hateful Eight or The Revenant, it includes a DVD as a part of the exclusive combo pack, and it seems to be the nicest option (and only alternative) in terms of Blu-ray packaging.
In an unfortunate trend for slipcover fans, Fox continues to release their UHD titles without any slipcover. This basic release features the UHD disc, a Blu-ray Disc, and the same Digital HD code that can be found in the Blu-ray release. The black keepcase feels pretty flimsy compared to the Blu-ray’s case, and it really is a shame that for such a “premium” format, we are served with lackluster packaging.
Special Features (1/5)
The special features are only available on Blu-ray in 1080p. The UHD disc lacks any special features per usual. The special features on this release are bare bones, and really not worth a Day One purchase.
The extras are as follows:
- Joy, Strength, and Perseverance – A 20 minute featurette with interviews of cast members and crew.
- Times Talk with Jennifer Lawrence, David O. Russell, and Maureen Dowd – an hour plus long interview of Lawrence and Russell conducted by Maureen Dowd.
- Gallery- A very short gallery of photos, running just under 40 seconds when on auto play mode.
Technical Specs (same for UHD and Blu-ray)
- Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
- DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Hindi, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, Ukrainian
Runtime 124 Mins
Joy is a very average movie, and it gets a deservingly average UHD/Blu-ray release. I would wait for this release to drop in price, especially if you are anxious for the UHD copy. I cannot recommend this Blu-ray at release day price, but I would say that it is a worthy pick up at around the $10 mark. The UHD really does not improve the quality of the film at all, so I would skip the UHD copy and just opt for the Blu-ray.