CineMarterJoy - Jennifer Lawrence Invents the Miracle Mop, Needs No Man
Directed and written by David O. Russell. Produced by John Davis, Ken Mok, Jonathan Gordon, Megan Ellison, and David O. Russell. Release date: December 25, 2015.
It might be time for director David O. Russell to get a new shtick. His last three theatrical releases have all featured Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in prominent roles, and the returns have been diminishing each time. Silver Linings Playbook was okay but a disappointment after the wonderfulness that is The Fighter. American Hustle dazzles on a first look but reveals itself to be a decent but pale Scorsese imitation with any deeper look. And now we have Joy, a film that does get better as it goes along, but nonetheless is probably the most mediocre film in Russell's filmography.
If the only thing you know about Joy is from seeing the trailer, you've been misled. The film is about the woman who invented the Miracle Mop, Joy Mangano (portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence). We begin in 1989, as she lives the life of a divorced mother trying to keep her household together. She's always been an inventor at heart but put those dreams on hold to have a family. Now she works as a booking clerk and sometimes helps out with her father's (Robert De Niro) auto repair shop. Her mother (Virginia Madsen) lies in bed and watches an abysmal soap opera, while her ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) lives in the basement. It's dysfunctional and becomes annoying to the viewer far quicker than we hope it would.
It's only after Joy starts to be about Joy becoming an inventor and entrepreneur that it begins to get interesting. Joy is a hard-working woman who deserves success, this much we can be sure, and seeing her constantly be denied, only to keep fighting harder, is both inspirational and entertaining. She's smart, resourceful, and refuses to take "no" for an answer. When she gets away from the family "drama" and takes control of her life, Joy becomes quite a fun film. It's a shame that, by this point, about half of it's already over.
If nothing else, Joy acts as a testament to both this story and the woman behind it. This is, indeed, a story that should be told. Was David O. Russell the right person to tell it? We know he can do drama well - The Fighter is, after all, fantastic - but the drama here is annoying and rarely helps us get involved in the story. The oft-quirky nature of the proceedings doesn't allow us to take it as seriously as it probably should have been. The film's length, and divergences that don't feel like they fit, also feel off. Russell's sensibilities just might not have been right for this particular project.