Joy: Film Review
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rosselini, Elizabeth Rohm
Director: David O Russell
David O Russell reteams with his Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle dream team to breathe some life in to the story of Joy Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop.
However, in bringing this biopic to life, he manages to some how pull together a story that doesn't quite fly like it should.
Lawrence (a little too young to play Mangano, but still on crackling form) is Joy, a woman whose life is a whirlwind of domestic chaos. Thanks to an ex living in the basement (Ramirez), a father who's just moved back in (De Niro) and a bed-bound mother (Madsen) who's addicted to soaps, she barely has a moment to herself.
But when she hits inspiration one day while cleaning up spilt wine glasses on a boat, she decides it's her moment to shine and designs a self wringing mop.
However, she faces a fight to get people to believe in both it or her...
Joy is a mixed film that bundles family dysfunction into an easy to swallow pill and cleans it up round the edges, forgetting to make this journey feel like one of extreme catharsis as it reaches the end.
Lawrence feels slightly miscast, almost a little too young to hit the straps she needs to as Mangano through the decades (even if the film feels like it takes place over a time period of a week), which is a surprise; it's not to detract from her performance, which is the one constant of Joy and certainly stands out from those around her. And it doesn't help that Russell goes heavy on the imagery with Mangano actually doing DIY around the home, while mentally doing DIY for her family. There's no subtlety in this rags to riches story and it's a damn shame because of it.
It's predominantly Russell's direction and the script which are the main reasons it never fully rises above its intentions. There's too much of an almost farcical approach to proceedings and when it comes time to inject the drama into the moment, it never quite fully catches like it should.
The sequences where Mangano heads to the fledgling QVC studios and makes a pitch to Bradley Cooper's Neil Walker and the subsequent scenes where Mangano sells her mop on screen are really where the film briefly stutters into life. The excitement of the new format, of the TV pitch, the fervour of the orders coming in as the camera circles around Walker is electrifying; but nowhere else in the movie does Russell ensure that this lightning strikes twice.
Interestingly, the potential for drama comes in the final stages of the film with Mangano heading up her own empire and finding others heading to her with ideas. It would have been a smarter move to see her having to balance the attitude she has of "I can't accept your answer and I won't" and "I don't need a prince" when facing business ideas from others. As it is, Russell settles for a saccharine "You can have it all" attitude that sticks in the craw with dramatic platitudes and cliches as Mangano lops her hair off to demonstrate her own turning point and self-reinvention.
Ultimately, Joy gets by on the strength of Lawrence alone; and while she does feel miscast, her presence on screen helps the film out of its own predicament. It lacks the catharsis that you'd perhaps expect and instead produces a more muted film that doesn't inspire as much as it should given the stellar talent involved.