Film Review: Joy
In 2015, David O. Russell released Joy, based on the story of Joy Mangano, who created the original Miracle Mop. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Elisabeth Rohm, and Melissa Rivers, the film grossed $98.1 million at the box office. Winner of the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, and the AARP Annual Movies for Grownups Awards for Best Supporting Actress and Best Screenwriter, the film was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy as well as the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Creative and overworked mother of two, Joy Mangano lives with her mother, grandmother and ex-husband on Long Island. However, when her father starts dating a widowed entrepreneur, she gets the idea to develop a self-wringing mop and with the help of her family and father’s girlfriend, it catches the eye of a QVC executive. Joy’s mop soon becomes one of the hottest items on the network and she discovers how cutthroat the business world is.
A film that honestly pulled an interesting bait and switch with its theatrical trailer, where a dramatic biopic was presented as a film about a woman who goes into business and then must protect her family, Joy is quite mediocre with Lawrence’s acting really the only memorable aspect to it and that isn’t too great either. Granted, Lawrence is able to pull off the demeanor of someone who has consistently been a longsuffering mother to kids while taking care of her mother who just won’t listen as well as the dogged determination of someone who is trying to make something of herself and refuses to quit. But in everything else, it feels like Lawrence is just unable to find that sweet spot and ends up underacting or overacting. For instance, upon finding out that her grandmother died, she’s just sort of there. On the other hand, the best actor in the film is Cooper as the QVC executive. He does really well as the guy acting as the barrier between someone with what they believe to be a brilliant idea and the salespeople presenting it to the public.
What really hurts the film though is that while it’s named after and begins as a story centering on the life of Joy Mangano, the film ends up becoming very generic. What looks to be the main problem is how director Russell turned it into a combination of the stories of various women who decided they were going to do something with themselves and drastically changed their lives. So what begins as a story about Mangano, the film ends up practically lumping her with other successful women and doesn’t do justice to either Mangano’s story or the story of the other women.
The film’s characters are also incredibly generic. There’s her immediate family, a mother and father who essentially bring her down and a half-sister who is a noted over-achiever and continuously tries to steal the spotlight from Joy and work to sabotage and subvert everything she does, her ex-husband who may be a deadbeat but actually cares about her and the children and the best friend who never leaves Joy’s side. Characters like these have all been presented before and this film doesn’t really do anything different or notable with them. Rather, they’re just there in their own generic roles. What’s more is the one acting as Joy’s financier, Trudy, is essentially the most wasted character. All she does is give Joy money, complain about how she’s using it and not getting returns and being the aforementioned father’s love interest. The film could have shown so much more with all these characters and failed to.
The film’s pacing also makes the film suffer considerably. It does well right up until she goes to the QVC offices. Once she does give her pitch and is introduced to how the channel operates, it feels like the film speeds up in order to get past what is essentially the most interesting part of the film in order to get back to focusing on the drama in Joy’s life. If the film were to slow down and give equal weight to the QVC side of things along with the mop itself and the marketing and selling thereof as it does to the dysfunction in Joy’s life, it would have been a much better film.
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