As the quirky romantic lead in “Finding Joy” discovered, a person can find joy where and when they least expect it. In this heartwarming comedy, director Carlo de Rosa (“Killing Time”) oversees a world populated by characters that, while loving and easily identifiable, are also a bit offbeat.
Suffering various career setbacks, Kyle Livingston (Josh Cooke) returns to his childhood home, but quickly learns his father Alan (Barry Bostwick) transformed his old room into a glamorous bathroom for new wife Gloria (Lainie Kazan).
“Shona Tuckman is the writer,” de Rosa explained when reached by phone. “Some of it is partly based on her own family. For instance, the Gloria character is based on her mother-in-law. I’ve met the real Gloria and she is pretty much like Lainie Kazan portrayed her. She is really out there.”
The director is quick to point out, though, that the other characters are pure inventions for the benefit of the story.
“We had a little fun exaggerating a little bit. We didn’t want to make a caricature out of them, but we did want to make the family as wacked as possible,” he said.
Finding Joy in Liane Balaban
Playing the title role, Liane Balaban captures the sweetness of the girl-next-door, but throws in a good bit of eccentricity to make things interesting.
“Usually [Liane] is cast for more dramatic roles, and when she came in for casting, she gave a pretty serious reading of the scenes that we gave her. Even though the character has some serious issues, what really made me go with Liane is the fact that between takes during the casting session, she as a person is just like sunlight,” de Rosa explained.
“She is just so much fun and funny and out there that I made a deal with her: ‘If you can bring yourself into the character, if you can forget a bit what you think the character is and bring your own persona into it, then we will perhaps find the perfectly right balance for Joy.’ And that’s exactly what happened.”
Balaban had many scenes with Josh Cooke, the actor portraying her would-be friend and suitor. “There was a clear difference in the way they would work. Josh-I call him the metronome because he’s very, very precise. Every take is almost identical to the previous one,” the director said.
In contrast, de Rosa said that Balaban works completely out of her instincts: “Two takes would become completely different, and that’s what allowed us to craft her performance in the editing room a little bit.”
Overall, “Finding Joy” is a delightful story about how life may not always follow the path we would like. “We all aspire to great things, but sometimes the reality is a little harsher,” de Rosa offered.