Writer & Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Édgar Ramírez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Elisabeth Röhm, Dascha Polanco, Melissa Rivers.
Don’t let the advertisements and promotion machine fool you. This film, all two hours of it, are about a friggin’ mop. Sure, the director of The Fighter and American Hustle is at the helm, along with a who’s who of Oscar winning and nominated actors: Lawrence, De Niro, Cooper, Ladd, and Madsen. There is a very good reason why this movie, in spite of having a much larger and well known cast than films like Beasts of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton, both excellent by the way, did not receive a single nomination from the Screen Actors Guild. The only two nominations it got from the Golden Globes are likely due solely to the fact that the Hollywood Foreign Press separates comedy and drama into different categories. I guess this movie qualifies as a comedy, but only because there are no tragedies occurring and there is no violence, because I assure you the film is very unfunny.
Jennifer Lawrence plays the titular Joy Mangano, a single mother who lives with her divorcee agoraphobic mother (Madsen), her elderly loving grandmother (Ladd), her kids, her unemployed wannabe singer ex-husband (Ramírez) who lives in the basement, her jealous sister (Röhm), and her good-for-nothing father (De Niro), also inhabiting the basement. You laughing yet? It’s hilarious, because all these thinly drawn archetypes all live in the same house!
Joy likes to make things, she has since she was little, and we know she is destined for greatness because one time when she was little she made a house made out of paper, so she has patience and imagination. As a teenager she made a dog collar but her parents never patented it, proving that they are selfish and uncaring and unsupportive of her dreams and talent. Her husband wants to be the next Tom Jones, this proves that his dreams are ridiculous, unlike Joy’s. I think you get the point of what passes for character development in this movie.
Joy one day wakes up and takes her kids’ crayons and just starts drawing frenzied circles on a piece of paper. She then demands from her father’s new rich girlfriend (Rossellini) an investment in an idea for a mop. Apparently Joy is the only one in the world with a nose for business, because she is blocked by her family at every step of the story and is surrounded by opportunists who just want to take advantage of her. Even the lawyers are completely inept and have absolutely no idea what they are doing.
Of course most of us have heard of the Miracle Mop, so we know that this film will eventually result in some level of success for Joy, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t have to suffer through every agonizing moment of how this mop came to be and every (inane) hurdle Joy had to go through in order to realize her dream. A good portion of the film is taken up by Joy’s relationship with the fledgling QVC network and an executive (Cooper) who kinda-sorta is on her side. Look out for the meta moment during which Melissa Rivers plays her own recently deceased mother Joan. Funny, right?
Joy is a confusing mess and misses the point entirely. It’s also bizarre that the movie focuses so much on just the invention of the mop and bypasses any other success she had afterwards. If you are looking for some holiday joy at the multiplex this season do yourself a favor and skip Joy, because you will find none here.