- RatedPG13 /GenreComedy, Drama
Reuniting with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, David O. Russell’s ‘Joy’ is ‘inspired by true stories of daring women’, but ‘one in particular’.
That someone is Joy Mangano, who in the late 80s started hawking her home-made contraption – the self-wringing mop – on the parking lots of K-Marts, and then making a killing feeding hungry housewives everywhere on cable television shopping networks.
The “Miracle Mop” – as her invention is called – is a runaway success, as the plot goes. But getting people to buy it was anything but plain sailing.
The movie wrings out about as much entertainment as you can get out of a story about a woman inventing a mop.
It has that distinctive madcap vibe that we saw in Russell’s previous outings like ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘American Hustle’; but unlike the earlier films, ‘Joy’ is not a love story or a crime-caper. It is a story of unfulfilled dreams and self-realisation. Loosely based on the life of the real Joy Mangano, it is perhaps the most straightforward of Russell’s repertoire.
Jennifer Lawrence returns to dazzle audiences again as a harried divorced mom Joy, who lives in a dysfunctional household.
Besides holding down her frustrating job and taking care of her kids, Joy also looks after her shut-in soap-opera binge-watching mother (Virginia Madsen), an ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) who lives in the basement, her cranky father (Robert De Niro), who also lives in the basement, as well as a pushy sister (Elisabeth Rohm). The only other sane person in the family is her saintly grandmother, played by Diane Ladd who also narrates the movie.
Joy has big dreams that she put aside for family – she loves inventing. She invented fluorescent dog collar when she was in college, but inertia prevented her from getting a patent.
Her life-changing moment comes when she cuts her hands while wringing a mop on the yacht of her father’s wealthy new girlfriend (a very funny Isabella Rossellini). She then creates a magical mop but no one wants to buy it until she pitches it to Neil (Bradley Cooper), the boss of the fledgling cable channel QVC.
Instead of a bow and arrow, Lawrence’s weapon here is a mop, a household appliance that her character singlehandedly conjured in her daughter’s bedroom and will fight tooth-and-nail to make it work. It is heartening to see Joy face every problem with a steely resolve and we cheer her when she succeeds.
The ever-dependable Lawrence nails every scene as a woman with a brilliant streak, giving the movie a solid base for each supporting character to stand on. She never wavers even when the story does, and she is the only reason to keep watching.
It is always a good thing to see Lawrence and Cooper together in a movie, even better when they share a scene. Yet, there just isn’t enough of them here together to light up the screen.
Russell’s penchant for screwball antics might just be this movie’s undoing as the dysfunctional schtick of the family members turns them into caricatures. The campy soap-opera interludes are funny at first, but after a while they just seem repetitive.
The movie might not be a smooth ride – like Joy’s journey to success – but it does offer us an inspiring and entertaining look into the life of a self-made entrepreneur.
‘Joy’ opens 7 January 2016