By Bob Bloom
“Joy” is director David O. Russell’s look at achieving the American dream, despite being hobbled by a nightmarish family.
The movie is based on the life of the woman who invented the Miracle Mop, which became a best-seller on the fledgling QVC network and made its creator a rich woman.
The performance of Jennifer Lawrence as Joy is what makes the film worth seeing. Joy is a divorced single mom with three children who lives in a house with her ex-husband, who makes a meager living as a club singer; her mom, who constantly stays in bed watching soap operas; and her dad, a businessman who always seems to be in debt and who continually upsets Joy, whenever he opens his mouth.
None of these family members shows any appreciation for Joy. They basically treat her as a doormat. She pays all the bills on her meager salary working as airline ticket counter clerk, without complaint nor any expectation of gratitude.
The only person who believes in Joy is her grandmother who continually encourages her granddaughter to follow her dreams and explore her full potential.
Since she was a child, Joy has been inventing small things that would make life easier for people, but she was never able to patent any of them or get support to manufacture her ideas.
That all changes when she cuts her hand while cleaning up broken glass and pulling the shards from a mop. That accident is the impetus for the invention that would change her life.
“Joy” is a flawed movie mainly because Russell cannot create a consistent tone. The film flip-flops between drama, comedy, farce and fantasy.
Plus, with the exception of Lawrence, none of the other characters is particularly likable or believable. Most, especially Robert De Niro as Joy’s father, Isabella Rossellini as his girlfriend and Virginia Madsen as Joy’s mom, border on caricature.
The movie is filled with conflict. Joy’s family seems to always undermine her resolve and creativity. Even when she becomes successful, they continue to take advantage of her, while greedily reaping the benefits of her invention.
The few people who do support Joy include her ex-husband, played with sincerity by Edgar Ramirez; Diane Ladd as her grandmother; and Bradley Cooper as Neil Walker, the pragmatic head of QVC, who reluctantly allows Joy on the air to sell her own product.
From Alexander Graham Bell to Thomas Edison, the movies have delighted in making films about inventors.
But “Joy” is different in the sense that her conception, while perhaps not on the level of the telephone or light bulb, did change the lives of thousands of housewives by making their chores easier and less stressful.
“Joy” is energetic, chaotic and messy, reflecting its heroine’s life and surroundings. Lawrence, though, rises above it all and carries the film on her shoulders. Like the floor she used for demonstrations, “Joy” is sloppy, but Lawrence makes the project bright, shiny and like new.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
2½ stars out of 4