I know very little about the world of patents. The makers of Joy, however, seem to know quite a bit, since their film about the making of the Miracle Mop doesn’t mention the “Miracle Mop” once. It takes a lot of fails to finally get the win Joy’s characters are reaching for. In the game of inventing, designing the product is the easy part. Marketing – now that’s the real Pepsi™ challenge.
From a young age, Joy (Jennifer Lawrence), has been an inventor. But, then again, from a young age I was an astronaut princess. Sometimes our dreams get put on hold. This is exactly what happens to Joy. She marries young, has two kids, and spends the next few years caring for a mother (Virginia Madsen), a father (Robert De Niro), and an ex-husband, Tony (Édgar Ramírez), who lives in the basement. Sometime after her father, Rudy, starts dating the wealthy widow, Trudy (Isabella Rossellini), Joy has a moment of epiphany which encourages her to invent the self-wringing, machine-washable “Miracle”-less mop. Joy quickly designs a prototype, borrowing money and legal advice from Trudy. The manufacturers are hired, the mop is built, and Joy stands alone in the world without a clue how to sell it.
I’ve never felt so much gratitude towards the Shopping Channel. Joy faces constant negativity and insecurity as the new owner of her very small business. Most of the advice she gets comes from her family who are career exaggerators and habit manipulators. After Joy meets Neil (Bradley Cooper) she finally finds the right medium through which to introduce her product: TV shopping. Neil, the most believable character in the bunch, is realistically helpful and willing to give Joy the assistance she needs. He just can’t say “No” to a strong product and a stronger saleswoman.
On the opposite end, Joy’s entourage – an incalculable number of friends, family members, and insufferable know-it-alls whose names end in “y” – never cease trying to push Joy out of the way. Why does she listen to them? Because these basket cases are family and, when you’re stuck, that’s what you do. It’s not hard to see, however, that Joy’s eventual success comes directly from her own foot pressed firmly on the gas. Her greatest accomplishment in the film follows immediately after she dismisses her family, takes a breath, and sheers off her hair before planning an attack on Man’s world of business. Joy Mulans-up.
Along the way, Joy faces more resistance than an elastic in a slingshot. She’s misinformed, ill-advised, swindled, overstepped, and belittled. Repeatedly. All these troubles, however, give Jennifer Lawrence a great chance to show us what she’s got. Sadly, her performance is really nothing new. She is a wonderful actress and exceptionally good at reacting to that one moment of earth shattering hopelessness… But the plot tempo and constant setbacks make her responses feel a bit monotonous. It would be nice to see Lawrence break her intense stare technique and try something completely over the edge for her next dramatic role.
That said, Joy is such an exaggeration of a movie that the entire thing feels like the board game, “Sorry”. The first quarter of the film tries very hard to parallel Joy’s life with a soap opera, and as a result comes out feeling plastic. We even have a narrator, Grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), who is the voice of compassion in a superficial household. Her narration is so spread out, however, that her rare interruptions feel disconnected from the story. Joy is the responsible one in her family, but she is also suffocated by the household as she tries simultaneously to lift them up and push them out of her way.
Joy is a classic David O. Russell movie. We have a slew of ridiculous characters that hover just above the poverty line and devote every minute to wild schemes. On top of that, the characters are so jealous of the protagonist’s modest success that their efforts to be noticed nearly capsize the whole operation. Joy is an unbelievable story mainly because the characters themselves are so flawed they’re hard to believe. It also, however, feels stretched out and uniform, save for a few hurrah moments. Joy is honestly a bit disappointing at a 6.5/10.