In David O’Russell’s third collaboration with the one woman star vehicle Jennifer Lawrence, we meet the divorced mother of two, Joy Mangano, who spends her life cleaning up after her reclusive mother (Virginia Madsen) and ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) who lives in the basement of her rickety house. The story, based around the real life trials and tribulations of Joy, follows her as she tries to get her miracle mop invention made, distributed and sold. Though it may sound like an odd premise, the self-made millionaire went through so much more than you might assume at first.
O’Russell’s belief in his audience to become emotionally invested in a story about a mop is somewhat unbelievable, but Lawrence’s performance carries the idea above and beyond. Despite being 25, playing a woman who is supposed to age 20 years across the film, Lawrence shows a fantastic ability. She’s raw and real with every aspect of her performance, bringing a tough edge and fearlessness to a role in which she has to rise above a world dominated by patriarchy.
Unfortunately, parts of the film feel a little disjointed and don’t seem to gel well together. O’Russell’s best efforts to combat this comes in the form of narration. At first, the narration by Joy’s Grandmother ‘Mimi’ (Diane Ladd) seems heavy yet seems to serve its purpose, dropping in and out. However, later in the film, it seems as though the narration is only there to pick up lost plot points and steer the audience in the right direction.
Despite this, there is also some great direction from O’Russell, mirroring Joy’s childhood with her adult life. We see a young Joy build a paper town in an early scene which is crumpled up and destroyed by her father (Robert De Niro), serving as a great metaphor for the effect that her family have on her adult life.
Overall, Joy is probably the weakest collaboration between O’Russell and Lawrence, but it’s important to consider that it had a lot to live up to. In a positive light, the film serves its purpose and makes you feel good, showing how much someone can achieve just through preservation and a fighting attitude.
What did you think of Joy?
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– Heather Thornton