Director: David O Russell
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro
The Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) story is typical of the American dream. She, a divorced mother of two who risks her life's savings to produce and market her invention, the Miracle Mop, overcomes the toughest hurdles and incessant, debilitating meddling from her dysfunctional family that includes her father Rudy (Robert De Niro), his many wives/girlfriends and her envious step-sister, en route to becoming the super successful inventor/businesswoman who became a household name all across America.
While that true-to-life story is uplifting and an ideal to live-up to, the movie of it doesn't work entirely to that effect. And that probably would be because the entire achievement is dependent on an innocuous looking household item that most of us would discount as something unworthy of praise.
Narrated in a fantastical tone by her grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), 'Joy' begins as a fable about a little girl who liked to make things. She then transforms into a troubled young woman who is unsure of herself, falls in love with a Tom Jones wannabe Joey (Edgar Ramirez), has two kids, divorces her lay-about husband and then settles into a confused friendship with him whilst living in a joint family set-up that includes her entire dysfunctional family entourage. Amidst all this chaos comes her invention that she hits upon while on a 55-foot yacht owned by her dad's newest fling Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) who happens to have the moolah to fund her enterprise. But for that she needs to convince someone to buy it first. In steps QVC's home-shopping network head (Bradley Cooper) who gives her a chance. And it's up to Joy to live up to her name in front of a fixated home shopping audience. It's not easy though.
The narration starts off as strong and then floats around into diverse sub plots before getting back on track. Joy's family life keeps interrupting her professional one. And that's the format Russell uses to bring home the point of her struggle that is both within and without. Joy has to deal with her mother (Virginia Madsen) who lies in her bed all day watching soap operas and eventually appears to have a thing going with the plumber, an interfering father and a conniving, jealous step-sister and business associates who set-out to cheat her. How Joy overcomes all these hurdles and comes out smelling roses is what the film is about.
It's not exactly 'Erin Brockovich' but it gets the job done in entertaining fashion. Russell employs the soap opera technique to exploit the foibles of family life while taking the fantasy route to shore up the resourcefulness of a working class mom defying all odds to seize her moment in the sun. There's no heavy-duty moment. The narrative, despite being choppy, has a smooth fluidity that helps keep you interested. Smooth transitions, excellent scene-to-scene connect and constantly evolving storyline help that advancement further. Send-ups of Emmy-winning soap icons like Susan Lucci, Laura Wright and Maurice Benard add weight to the craft. All the stars do their bit here to keep the glow on the boil but it's really Jennifer Lawrence who shoulders the entire weight of the film with both star power and acting shops. Her performance here, though not extraordinary, has enough poise, charm and empathetic moments to make it memorable. Unfortunately Russell's craft here is not as luminous as it was in 'Silver Linings Playbook.' But even though it's a hustle at best, it manages to spread out enough charm to keep you engaged.