Spoils lay ahead. Kinda. Not really.
This movie was almost good. I mean, it still was. It just…also wasn’t?
The acting was really good. Not great but that may be because I expected good acting from the cast going into it and had a high bar set. And the cast was amazing for the script they were given to work with.
Obviously, Jennifer Lawrence was gold. I’m on that train hardcore. Because she is good. And maybe every role she is in she still comes through as herself a little bit but that is okay because she is a delight and awesome and b.a. and just yay. She had just the right level of accent. It was enough to color her character but not enough to make it sound like she was trying to because nothing is more annoying (except a lot of things but I love hyperbole) than an actor doing a bang up job of an accent to the point that it’s distracting and you don’t even hear the words because that accent is distracting in real life. She was perfect for a strong but emotionally capable woman. The one bad part of her performance was the one singing scene but that wasn’t her fault. She has said she doesn’t sing. It’s their fault for putting in the scene, that frankly would have been bad even if the signing and acting had been good, and then not even caring about the quality of the voice over.
Bradley Cooper played a smaller role than I thought he would and not the role he could have easily been thrown into. I was thankful he didn’t play a bum romantic interest. Instead, he played a lovely supporting role that he filled well. He wasn’t a wow performance but this movie wasn’t about him and I’m glad he wasn’t given time he didn’t need. He was exactly what he needed to be and there is no denying that he and Jennifer lift each others’ performances up when they are on-screen together.
Robert De Niro played an okay part but, and this may have been solely the fault of the writing, the character ended up being a little muddied. I don’t know what I was supposed to feel towards him and not in a well-developed ambivalent character kind of way. He had parts that were good but as a whole performance he felt like plot.
Edgar Ramirez was a surprise high point for me. Granted, if this is true to life then Joy’s ex-husband was a good person. Regardless of the truth Edgar did a great job with the role. He was not the guy I was expecting to like in this movie but he was as enjoyable to watch as Bradley and had the more difficult role. He played the relationship with Jennifer perfectly. He brought out the complexities in a way that let the simple truth of the situation come through. I believed him all the way through the movie. Nothing he did was a low point for me. The character was tight and flushed out. He knew who this person was.
Virginia Madsen was another actor that just nailed their role. She made what could have easily been a standard surface character be a real, likable person. She made this movie better with her portrayal.
Isabella Rossellini, on the other hand, added nothing of value to the movie. Part of the reason I am displeased with her is probably the fact that I hate the character as a person. But she didn’t do that, didn’t bring out those feelings in me. She barely did anything. She was stiff and boring. She may not have had much to work with but she did have some good lines that she turned into mud.
Diane Ladd was just blah. She was the opposite of an inspiration. She was so boring. She narrated the entire thing and was just as engaging as a disembodied voice as a physical actor with lines and body language. Not good. Not anything. The entire movie would have been way better if her role would have been minimized.
Speaking of the narration. We need to stop having unnecessary narration. The script was good enough and the acting was great. We got the point without bland, annoying, pointless, detracting narration. It added nothing and took away so much. It interrupted flow. It took us out of the moment. The writers had little to no respect for the intelligence of the audience. It was insulting.
The writing in general was less than pleasing. The flashbacks were a little too long and did very little for the story. They, unlike the narration, were at least necessary but they were nowhere near what they could or should have been. The rest of the story was jerky and stinted. It was disappointing when the acting, for the most part, was so good. And the soap opera thing…I get what they were going for but it was just so poorly written into the script. I just pretended that those scenes didn’t happen and would advise that you do the same.
Verdict: Definitely worth seeing but you can wait to rent it for a dollar. Good for mixed company unless you have unacknowledged or buried drama with someone. In spite of the writing and some terrible storytelling methods it still gets a thumbs up from me.