Directed by David O. Russell, Joy is based on the true story of Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence), a self-made millionaire who became the founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty. Set in the early 1990s, the film follows a family across four generations, and centres around Joy, a divorced mother with two children, who reluctantly has her mother Terri (Virginia Madsen), father Rudy (Robert De Niro), grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), and her ex-husband Tony (Édgar Ramírez) living in her house.
Done with living an average life, Joy takes her future into her own hands and, with the help of financier, Rudy’s girlfriend Trudy (Isabella Rossellini), becomes an overnight success with a bright new invention – the Miracle Mop. As allies become adversaries and adversaries become allies, both inside and outside the family, Joy must overcome personal and professional obstacles to rise to the top.
David O. Russell is quickly becoming one of the best directors around at the minute, with his latest films, American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook, and The Fighter, all being among my favourites. It’s especially great news when you hear that he’s collaborating with Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Bradley Cooper again, as well. But whilst Joy has the same spark of storytelling and swift camera work, it’s sadly a disappointing addition to what was a fantastic streak of brilliant filmography.
Joy is a hard film to review, because whilst you can tell that David O. Russell was behind the camera, the story just wasn’t there with this one. From the promotional footage, you expect a powerful female lead who gets into a business with a somewhat dangerous edge, and then who tells her family where to stick it. Then you learn that it’s the true story about a woman that invented a mop.
For the real Joy Mangano, huge praise is needed, but for a feature length film there needed to be something more. Sure, Joy Mangano put in a lot of hard work to get to where she is today, but she doesn’t make a very compelling lead. Lawrence’s character wasn’t empowering or inspiring, and, in fact, I thought she was kind of a pushover.
Again, because of David O. Russell‘s talent, the story is told well, and the performances are unsurprisingly brilliant. But the character of Joy Mangano just isn’t strong enough, not giving the film that big push it needed towards the end to strive the audience to want to make a difference as she did.
David O. Russell will remain one of my favourites, as well the beautiful Jennifer Lawrence, but I’d happily cross this off my list of films to rewatch in the future.