But it’s Lawrence’s liaison with the beautifully on-form Cooper that stay with you most – not because their relationship is all that romantic (in fact it’s largely professional), but because it brings a counterintuitive dignity and grace to what on the face of things seems to be a throwaway, eccentric tale.
Though he works for a cable TV shopping channel, Cooper’s character comports himself like a Golden Age Hollywood filmmaker – rhapsodising about old-school studio heads Jack Warner and Darryl F. Zanuck, and passionately urging his cameras mid-broadcast to “give me the hands” and “cut to the syrup”.
He likens his and Joy’s meeting to the moment the great director David O. Selznick met Jennifer Jones, a former hat model whose collaborations with Selznick made her a star of Classical Hollywood cinema – and Russell is drawing an additional, impertinent but irresistible parallel with his and Lawrence’s own creative alliance.
While the Golden Age may be long gone, its spirit endures in Joy. It’s the best kind of actor-director collaboration. Take the sum of its parts, double it, and you’re almost there.