JOY (USA/12A/124mins)
Directed by David O. Russell. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Elisabeth Rohm, Dascha Polanco, Isabella Rosselini.
THE PLOT: Even as a little girl, Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) always had a creative streak, and invented a quick release dog collar as a little girl, a design that was never patented. After having to clean up red wine and broken glass with her hands, Joy thinks up an idea for a self wringing mop but, while struggling to keep her family together and come up with the cash for this new product, Joy doesn’t quite tick all the boxes that she should.
THE VERDICT: The opening of ‘Joy’ tells the audience that the film is inspired by brave women, but this really makes it no clearer as to why we are treated to a two hour look at the life of a woman who went from struggling financially and creatively into a business mogul.
Jennifer Lawrence, as always, is wonderful as the overwrought but determined mother and entrepreneur at the centre of the film. Lawrence easily carries the emotional heart of the film, but even she cannot untangle the messy and manic plot of the movie. The rest of the cast is made up of Robert DeNiro, Elisabeth Röhm, Dascha Polanco, Bradley Cooper, Virginia Madsen and Isabella Rosselini. All do well with what they are given, but make no mistake; this is Jennifer Lawrence’s show, and she once again shows her versatility and capability by going from a film like The Hunger Games to this period drama about mops.
The story, written for the screen by director David O. Russell feels similar in part to that of ‘Silver Linings Playbook’; a child of a messy and chaotic family trying to make it on their own, although refreshingly, Lawrence is not playing a character that is diagnosable this time, instead everyone else just thinks she’s crazy. There is so much going on here that it is often hard to keep track of it all and when you do, find a reason to care other than Jennifer Lawrence making her character relatable.
As director, Russell coaxes another strong performance from Jennifer Lawrence, but since the audience has trouble investing in a product that is either in everyone’s homes or already surpassed by new technology, this feels less like the story of a strong and powerful woman and that of an ordinary and every day mop. The film is messily paced, with the actual idea for the mop coming almost as an afterthought of the family drama that envelops the title character.
In all, ‘Joy’ is the story of a woman who overcame all the odds to become a strong and powerful entrepreneur, but messy storytelling, messy pacing and far too much going on means that the audience finds it difficult to care about the future of the self-wringing mop, so the film goes from shiny and bright, to dull as mop water. However Lawrence and her performance go a long way to save the film from complete disaster.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Review by Brogen Hayes
3.0Not sparkly clean
  • filmbuff2011

    David O. Russell’s latest film Joy re-unites him with the stars of his previous films, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro are fast becoming members of the Russell repertory group. While there’s much to enjoy about Joy, it’s definitely the weakest of the three films.

    As the opening titles declare, the story is inspired by the efforts of American women who invented useful gadgets, took on the business world and then conquered it. Twentysomething Joy (Lawrence) lives in a chaotic household with wise grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd) and her soap-opera loving mother Terry (Virginia Madsen). Her divorced father Rudy (De Niro) lives downstairs in the basement with Joy’s amicable ex-husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez). She’s also a young mother. Joy is smart though and wants to escape the shackles of domesticity. She hits upon the idea of inventing a mop that is self-wringing and more long-lasting than anything else on the market. She goes into business with Rudy’s partner Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) and soon she develops a working model. She attempts to sell it on the QVC shopping channel run by Neil (Bradley Cooper), but faces an uphill struggle to convince his network that it’s an item worth selling and buying. Over the years, Joy will fight constant battles with other adversaries in commerce and the ever-looming threat of bankruptcy…

    Annie Mumolo’s original script was a biopic about the real-life inventions of successful American businesswoman Joy Mangano. Russell re-worked it to be more of an inspiration for his own story. He never actually references her or the Miracle Mop by name, instead deciding to focus on building characters and situations around his own interpretation of the material. As a result, it’s a film that definitely feels a little odd from the outset.

    It moves away from the more clearly defined likes of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle to the offbeat quirkiness of his earlier films like Flirting With Disaster and I Heart Huckabees. He makes this obvious early on, drawing parallels between Terry’s love of cheesy soap operas and Joy’s own soap opera of a life. As a result, the story wobbles quite a bit for the first act, trying to find its feet and convince the audience as to why it’s relevant and why we should care. The story then settles down into a character and thereby actor-driven story of ambition, fame and the search for the American Dream. That’s more identifiable and Lawrence then gets the chance to set off the acting fireworks, giving a fine, fiercely independent performance. It’s pretty much her film throughout, even though Cooper, Rossellini and De Niro provide strong support.

    It’s a warmly affecting tale of family values and the drive to succeed even in challenging times. But for all of that, Russell never really gets to the heart of the story – a by-product of his tinkering with the script. It’s a story that feels half-formed, as if it was just a pre-lude to a greater story and thereby a better film. To borrow a quote from Amadeus, Russell is passionate but he does not persuade. A bit like Joy’s initial appearance on QVC selling her own product. Joy is still worth investing in, but don’t expect much of a return. ***