If I told you last year I was going to see an award winning film about the invention of a mop, you’d probably tell me to shut the front door. But Joy is just that.
The film is a typical underdog story but with a capitalist twist: anyone can be an entrepreneur, you just have to want to badly enough. It opens with a soap opera: a Dyanasty-esque set up, with a scenario where a lady is asked if she can take the gun, shoot it and make all her troubles go away. This soap opera parallel plays on throughout the film, to good effect.
Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) is a single mother to two children who lives at home with her mother, and her grandma, plus her ex-husband who she divorced two years ago but still lives in the basement. And to add to things, her father’s second wife has just kicked him out, so he moves into the already full house.
It is clear from the off that Joy does everything she can for her dysfunctional family: she works for an airline company while her mother (Virginia Madsen) is afraid to leave her bedroom and is living her life binge watching soap operas, her ex-husband struggles with an unsuccessful singing career and her father (Robert De Niro) tries to hold together the family business: a car garage. Joy is a hard worker and a creator. Flashbacks to her childhood see her constructing intricate scenes from paper and talking of her dreams to make things: a super power which means she doesn’t require a prince. You go girl.
When Joy cuts her hands on broken glass when cleaning up a smashed wine glass, she is inspired to create a self-wringing mop. Grabbing her daughter’s crayons, she draws out her ideas and makes a prototype before pitching her business idea to her father’s new girlfriend, Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) a wealthy widow with money to spare thanks to her late husband: but Trudy drives a hard bargain. Joy must make the money back within six months.
Joy has to grab the gun and dive head first into business: she sets up a manufacturing line at her father’s garage and gets the patent for her mop. Despite being turned down several times by retailers, being arrested for harassment and having to take out a second mortgage on top of Trudy’s substantial loan Trudy, Joy’s will never faulters. She then meets Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) who heads up QVC, still a fairly new concept at the time, and gives her the opportunity to sell thousands of her mops through the television network. All she needs is an opportunity.
If you enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook, you’re likely to feel the same way about Joy, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite reach the same heights as O Russell’s first venture with Lawrence. The elation and enthusiasm is there, but not to the same extent.
Joy sees Jennifer Lawrence team up once again with long-time collaborator David O. Russell, as he directs her in their third film together in four years: a relationship that began with Silver Linings Playbook: the film that won Lawrence a Golden Globe, an Oscar and proved that she was more than just ‘that girl from Hunger Games’, launching her to the Hollywood A list.
Yes, Lawrence had already won an Oscar nomination for her role in Winter’s Bone in 2010, but she was still seen of something of an indie darling: not the cool girl of Hollywood that everyone wishes they were friends with that she is now. She is so likeable and full of energy, and never fails to bring that to her roles. Joy is no exception.
With so many heavy-going films at the cinema at the moment (apparently emotionally draining = chance of winning an Oscar), it was nice for this week’s viewing to be slightly more light hearted. Lawrence is the best part of the film, on top form as always: she is vibrant and fleets between deadpan comedy, clawing desperation and sheer willed determination throughout the two hour screen time. While Joy is enjoyable enough, Lawrence is the reason to go see it.