This film was chosen by my good friend Andrew Jamieson who is easily the most knowledgeable and passionate film fan and blogger I’ve ever met and will be introduced with a short conversation between him and Ami Davies, the Newcastle-based entrepreneur and inventor of the My Little Explorer child safety app and tracking device.
Here’s why Andrew chose the film for us…
“I remember the beginning of 2016, in the midst of the Hollywood award season with all of the pomp and ceremony brought about by red carpet after red carpet photoshoots, I saw a movie called ‘Joy’. Labelled by many critics as ‘whimsical’ and ironically ‘joyless’ by many much vaunted over industry critics, the movie was one I went into with a sense of apprehension. Yes whilst the movie itself had a stellar director and cast with a lead actress who was one of the best working in modern cinema I entered the auditorium to start my cinematic year with a sense of apprehension and fear that I would endure rather than enjoy the next two hours of my life as a cinephile. The first movie of the year is as big as my birthday to me so after much angst and considerable worry on my part I settled down after a hard day at work to watch Jennifer Lawrence’s third movie with director David O. Rusell. Little did I know I was not settling down to watch a whimsical movie I was sitting down to watch a modern classic.
We are introduced to a story about a woman who created one of the most dextrous domestic products ever made to the western marketplace. The title character creates a product which redefined home cleaning and made the toils of everyday domesticity so much easier for millions around the world. So, this is a story about a mop. Yes. A mop. However to say that is perhaps like saying that War and Peace is a story about some Russian folks that is quite long. The true genius of the movie is that it manages to become a story about the abstract nature of creativity, the physical embodiment of the genesis of an idea, capitalism and womanhood.
The movie opens with the quote ‘Inspired by stories of daring women’ and the song ‘I Feel Free’ by the British band Cream. It is ironic that this story is from a feminine point of view as Joy is also an actual mother and surrogate mother to her whole family. Whilst of course commerce and business is not gender specific it occurred to me that this choice is purposeful for the thematic content of the story. Joy is not only the alma mater to her daughter. Ultimately here she is also the mother to her product and its success or failure on the market. Whilst other recent movies such as David Fincher’s sublime ‘The Social Network’ or the wildly underrated ‘Steve Jobs’ focus primarily on the patriarch of a company and the nihilistic, obsessive characterisations of male hegemony. ‘Joy’ is a movie that moves beyond the construct of those other two narratives with a narrative that is much centred around the birth of an idea and its ultimate rearing into a new product.
Whilst this could be viewed as a feminist narrative I believe this would be to hinder the scope of Joy as it is true of men and women that family, personal circumstance and life all feature heavily on the creation of a new idea. However it is perhaps a sleight on prescriptive gender roles in society and business that this story is best told by a female. Even without those considerations I would argue that this story is wonderfully inclusive in that we have a female protagonist with a story each audience member can enjoy and embrace. Whilst Joy herself is different to other driven females in popular culture such as Jodie Foster in ‘Silence of the Lambs’ or Jessica Chastain’s character Maya in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ this difference is wonderful as she is a human being as well as a driven, talented woman. She is not presented as an asexual archetype but a human being.
The abstract is ever present in the opening of Joy and is the best representation of its transcendent beauty. The movie begins with scenes of Joy as a child. A child who is wild with ideas and dreams. She sits with her sister discussing her ideas and making paper figures of them as a vinyl plays in the background. Over time these dreams have been neutered and sit dormant in her brain like the dormant Cicada Fly in the book Joy reads about to her daughter at night time. We are treated to beautiful dream sequences in which Joy is openly confronted by her younger self amidst a soap like drama playing on her mother’s television.
I read a scientific paper on the brain last year that suggested that dreams are our way of understanding memory which was a motif in Christopher Nolan’s grand scale ‘Inception’ from 2010. These scenes are important as it again points toward the universality of the story. Anybody who creates something, and who embodies the universality of emotionality starts these concepts in the abstract. If you want to start a business, write a song or fall in love; all of these constructs start off as the abstract in that they are an idea or feeling. Then we bring these feelings and ideas into the physical world. Through starting the business, finding a lover or playing the song. What I love about Joy is that the movie embodies the feelings and soul behind ideas prior to them becoming physical where they are then affected by the machinations of the world and the people in it.
As Joy’s mop is brought to market its progress and her idea are affected by lawyers, producers, family and her loved ones in an antagonistic and cathartic way. So for a supposedly ‘whimsical’ to have a distinct idea of creativity, dreams and emotionality is a feather in its bow. Even if you have never built a business you will have felt some of the emotions at play in this story. It is the reason we love the BBC TV show ‘Dragons Den’ and ‘The Apprentice’ whilst also enjoying the transition from the abstract into the physical in music, film, art and popular culture. Here we get to see the humanity behind the idea and the existential dexterity behind them.
On a technical level ‘Joy’ is beautifully lensed by cinematographer Linus Sandgren in a glorious 1:85 screen ratio on 35mm film which makes the image larger and his canvas more expansive, this is important in a movie in which small domestic environments are as poignant to the story as they are. Joy herself is filmed on many occasions pacing toward the camera and from the side. This shows that it is her and not her idea that is front and centre of this story. Even when she visits QVC and is made up to look like one of the characters from the Dallas like sitcom her mother watches, it is her personable and likeable personality which shines through. Again the people behind the product are more important than the product itself.
Jennifer Lawrence has now made three movies with David O Russell and he is a director who understands her humour and poise on screen. Her two previous works with him: ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘American Hustle’ also mine the intuitive and fluent shorthand the director has with his star. This symbiotic relationship is wonderfully illustrated again by their collaboration on this movie.
‘Joy’ is also funny and sharply witted with a great turn by Robert De Niro. Isabella Rosselini, Virgina Madsen, Bradley Cooper, Isabella Crovetti whilst twins Aundrea and Gia Gatsby bring soul and heart to the movie with their turns as Joy’s daughter Christy.
In short Joy is a masterpiece. It is a wonderful portrayal of the abstract and its’ metamorphosis into the world. This startup company is one we can enjoy in our day to day lives, commerce, culture and crucially here on screen. If this is a joyless movie then sadly I didn’t get the memo!”
Want to be there?
This special screening of ‘Joy’ is only open to people who have already bought a ticket for Newcastle Startup Week.
You must buy one of our tickets first via the Eventbrite booking form below. You will then be asked to confirm which events you wish to attend throughout the week, including the free film screening.