Joy is loosely based on the story of Joy Mangano, inventor of the miracle mop. It’s a lot more interesting than that sounds. This is not an inventor film about the awe and admiration someone received after creating something revolutionary, it is about an ordinary woman who had an idea and worked extremely hard to make it a reality. The film states it is also based, in part, on the stories of other inspirational women, making this the central focus of the film, and a welcome one. The rarity of a strong, female lead character who is the complete focus of a film gives this film a little something even before it starts.
However, the film doesn’t quite live up to what may be expected from the above and another collaboration between David O’Russell and Jennifer Lawrence, as this film is of a significantly lower standard than their previous two efforts. The film feels fairly disjointed causing little atmosphere to be created and even less to be sustained. The film doesn’t completely get inside Joy’s head, leaving the audience out a little meaning that the film loses any captivating quality. Similarly, the story feels a little formulaic making it fairly predictable which then restrains the film’s ability to fully involve the audience emotionally. This subsequently caused the film’s final payoff (and final scene) not to land, feeling a little undeserved.
Lawrence is good in the role, as you would expect, yet isn’t the tour de force needed to completely carry the film and make it more compelling. She embodies the exhausted housewife with dreams greater than her current life incredibly well, and conveys her emotions fantastically. However, as has been a point in her other roles in O’Russell’s films, her youth almost takes away from the character, seemingly giving less credibility to her struggles as it appears her success comes at such a young age which in turn may, for some, take away from her performance. She is supported well by solid turns from the likes of Robert De Niro, Isabella Rossellini and Bradley Cooper, fleshing out her family and work lives.
O’Russell’s style is still felt strongly here, as is his passion for complex female characters. The film exudes the type of energy we have come to expect from him as a director as well as his quirky takes on realism. Some of these, however, do not land, such as the odd dream sequences involving a soap opera, which distract from the story built up thus far.
Overall, the film is a little erratic and disjointed but still fairly entertaining for a film based on the creation of the miracle mop.