Review: Joy – Few tidings of comfort

JoyAward winning film director and writer David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) has strangely swayed off course in his latest effort, Joy, starring his frequent collaborators, actors Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

The film starts awkward and slow but eventually finds its groove, with Lawrence delivering yet another excellent performance; but the final act blows away a lot of the good will I had towards this realistic look at starting an American business by copping out to a run-of-the-mill Hollywood ending, a weird finale that was reminiscent of the voiceover end of Raising Arizona.

Joy is loosely based on the true story of QVC and Home Shopping Network star, Joy Mangano, inventor of the “Miracle Mop,” and Lawrence is perfectly cast as the young single mother who risks everything to follow her creative dreams.

Robert De Niro plays Joy’s father, Rudy, who is supportive of his youngest daughter and convinces his rich girlfriend, Trudy (Isabella Rossellini), to invest in the mop invention. Against Joy’s wishes, her older half-sister, Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm), also becomes involved in the business.

JoyEdgar Ramírez portrays Tony Miranne, Joy’s ex-husband and “advisor,” while Dascha Polanco plays Jackie, her best friend. Joy draws inspiration from her grandmother, Mimi (Diane Ladd), who also narrates the film, and her mother, Carrie (Virginia Madsen), who lays in bed and watches soap operas all day, providing an example of what Joy does not want to become. All parties forget the golden rule of business – never, ever go into it with friends or family.

Bradley Cooper only gets a little bit of screen time as a QVC network executive who gives Joy a chance at selling her product on a national stage. He does a great job and I would have preferred to see more of him and less of the often annoying Mangano family characters.

JoyOnce the film moves past goofy reenacted soap opera analogies it is actually an honest and entertaining examination of the trials and tribulations of starting a business, with the pitfalls ultimately being driven home in a realistic dramatic manner. But just when Joy resolves to not give up on her dream, it seems Russell does just that, wrapping the film up quickly, but not very tidily.

At the apex of Joy’s anguish a switch is flicked in Russell’s script and she’s almost immediately back on track and on her way to becoming the benevolent Queen of inventions. Granted, it would probably take another whole movie to cover the rest of the story, but Russell’s handling of the conclusion felt haphazard and lazy and it cheapened the whole experience.

Despite its lack of grace and mindboggling final act, Joy is not a bad movie and I think fans of Jennifer Lawrence will be mostly pleased, just don’t get your hopes up for enjoying another David O. Russell masterpiece. Grade: 6/10

Photos © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.