Director: David O.Russell
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Isabella Rossellini, Virginia Madsen.
Plot: In Long Island, divorced mother Joy dreams of pursuing her ambitions as an inventor in the face of the obstacles thrown her way by her family and by the ruthless business world.
Set in the early 1990s, Joy is inspired by the true-life story of Italian American entrepreneur Joy Mangano, who rose to fame and success after inventing the self-wringing Miracle Mop, which earned her a collaboration with successful shopping channels QVC and HSN. The film chronicles her journey towards the fulfillment of her dream and the struggles she had to face in order to succeed.
At the start of the film, Joy is a divorced mother of two, living with her mother, grandmother, children and ex husband – who strangely enough keeps living in her basement. Her family is therefore dysfunctional and a source of worry and stress for Joy. Her mother Terri (Virginia Madsen) spends all day watching soap operas and is completely disconnected from the world, Joy’s ex husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez) seems to be stuck in a dead-end job as a low-cost singer, her father Rudy (Robert De Niro) is a very neurotic character who continuously acts selfishly for the whole duration of the story, her half-sister Peggy (Elisabeth Roehm) treats her scornfully, and Joy works hard to make ends meet and provide for her two children. It seems as if the only person who actually seems to believe in her is her grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd).
The screenplay is based on events that happened in the real Joy’s life, although some elements are purposefully changed and some are entirely fictional; for example, it seems that Joy’s half-sister Peggy was a product of writer-director Russell’s imagination. It is written in such a way that we learn more about her as the film progresses – mostly the sacrifices she had to make when her parents divorced. Slowly, the central character seems to find a way back to her original and creative self and, on her way to regaining control over her life, she comes up with the invention of the self-wringing Mop, which gains the attention of Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) from QVC shopping channel. I won’t spoil anything for you, but the arc between Neil and Joy is probably the most interesting part of the movie.
Despite being nominated for, and winning, a Golden Globe for her performance in the lead role, Jennifer Lawrence didn’t really stand out and could have done with more variation in her facial expressions. Her performance gave the impression that she put on a default blank face for most of the film, interrupting it only to produce the occasional smile or moment of desperate sobbing, the latter of which has become somewhat of a trademark for this actress. For this reason, the effectiveness of the close-ups trying to suggest the conflicting emotions churning inside Joy, was lost within Lawrence’s expressionless performance.
The same goes for Robert De Niro, of whom I can’t help but feel also had the same look on his face. It seemed like the legendary actor was absent from the picture and didn’t put much effort into his performance as a result; something which is surprising given his back catalog of previous performances and his miniature renaissance under Russell in Silver Linings Playbook (2012). In fairness though, both De Niro and Isabella Rossellini – who plays a rich widow that Rudy is dating – do a nice job portraying two despicable characters, with their heartless, selfish and demeaning attitudes towards Joy, which was close to unbearable and completely unjustified.
On the contrary, Bradley Cooper’s performance as Neil Walker was very convincing and he gave a bit of colour to a picture that would have otherwise been a little flat. Diane Ladd also excelled as Joy’s grandmother Mimi, managing to add a touch of tenderness to the movie.
Overall, Joy is an inspiring tale of determination, a strong will, and resilience and although the acting may fall flat in many parts of the movie, I found the overall production to be quite entertaining all in all and would recommend it to all who read this review. For this reason, the film gets a…