Oh, Joy!

I wasn’t exactly a social animal as I was growing up, meaning I’ve watched a lot of TV. At one point in my life I have become a real connoisseur of “true story” TV movies. A mother’s battle with illness. A wife’s battle with abusive husband. A girl’s struggle through multiple foster parents. A family’s struggle with sudden poverty. I’ve seen them all. Some of them weren’t half bad, others sucked major ass. But then again, that’s the case with all movies, not just the ones of TV variety.

If you’ve seen the honest trailer for Jurassic World, you’re probably familiar with the thesis that it’s nothing but a SyFy channel movie with a big budget.

Something similar can be applied to Joy, the movie which earned Jennifer Lawrence her Oscar nomination. It’s a TV movie about a mother’s/daughter’s struggle to fulfil her potential with a big casting and marketing budget. The TV-movie-feel was much aided by the fact that Joy’s half-sister is embodied by a TV movie/Law & Order actress Elisabeth Röhm.

It is possible that they wanted to make Joy reminiscent of TV movies. If they did, good for them. They almost made it.

There are elements in the movie which suggest that they tried to do something a bit different, but gave up along the way.  There are moments which are very stylized, but they evaporate so quickly that they are easy to forget. There are attempts at creating Lynch-like atmosphere and characters (mostly thanks to Isabella Rossellini and Virginia Madsen) but somewhere down the middle they decided this is not the way they want to go.

Joy is a jumbled mess. Creating a motif at the beginning and then abandoning it altogether pissed me off. I really liked the idea of presenting life as nothing but a never-ending soap opera. However, the makers of Joy liked it only occasionally, and not very frequently. The idea of stylized reality appealed to me. I’m sorry they didn’t insist on it.

All in all, nothing impressed me about Joy. Not even Jennifer Lawrence.

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I did not weep for Charlie, I wept for myself

Flowers for Algernon, 1958
Daniel Keyes

I knew what was coming. It was only a matter of time. Despite brief bursts of optimism, there was nothing to look forward to save hopelessness. Somewhere around page 220, my vision began to blur. Having reached page 238 I was sobbing desperately.

Flowers for Algernon has left me raw; nerves exposed to the harsh elements. It’s the heightened awareness that makes Algernon such a thrilling story to read. Even the sense of despair bears a bitter-sweet quality that I cannot really explain.

One of my greatest fears has always been the fear of losing my mind. I have never had nor will I ever have the mental prowess of Charlie Gordon, but I cherish my mind and my judgment, as flawed as they are, beyond everything else. The idea of losing that freaks me out. Not the idea of being without it, but the idea of that interim period of knowing you cannot understand or think the way you used to – that limbo in which you remember what you were and could do, but cannot reproduce it.

I did not weep for Charlie. I wept for myself, I wept because of the eventuality of decay.

All the faults I have found in Algernon disappeared on those last pages where it is impossible not to see a glimmer of your own future. Keyes finishes the story right at the point when it hurts the most.

It’s a strange sensation to pick up a book you read and enjoyed just a few months ago and discover you don’t remember it. I recall how wonderful I thought Milton was. When I picked up Paradise Lost I could only remember it was about Adam and Eve and the Tree of knowledge, but I couldn’t make sense of it.