“Don’t ever think that the world owes you anything, because it doesn’t. The world doesn’t owe you a thing…”
A film that is basically a celebration of capitalism should, by any usual standard, be dogshit. Joy isn’t, simply because of just how great an actress Jennifer Lawrence is. Throughout every cartoonish villain and contrived plot twist, every eye rollingly predictable reveal and cliché, Jennifer Lawrence’s sheer force of personality and charm carries Joy from start to finish.
Joy Mangano is a down trodden and put upon single mother who has to take care of her eccentric parents while supporting her young children. Her penchant for inventing eventually grants her a shot at the big time in the shape of her self wringing mop.
There have been a thousand feel good movies with similar plots and the key is that the audience must feel able to root for the protagonist. Therein lies David O. Russell’s most recent film’s greatest strength. I found the supporting cast of characters unnecessarily quirky and annoying but Lawrence sells it by reacting how most of us react to our own odd family members, with a stoic but plaintive determination.
David O. Russell was on an insane hot streak going into this film taking in The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Robert De Niro, Lawrence and Bradley Cooper excelled in Silver Linings Playbook but it feels a step too far for them here, particularly De Niro, who never seems to have a grasp on his characters mannerisms and motivations. Indeed, at times it seems as though he has wandered on set from a different movie. Bradley Cooper fares better however and his star power juxtaposes well with Jennifer Lawrence’s more down to earth style.
Joy feels like the wrong project for David O. Russell to pursue when in such a period of repeated success but Jennifer Lawrence saves it from entering flop territory. There are certainly better films in this genre, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Founder and The Social Network to name but three, therefore Joy is really only useful for Jennifer Lawrence completists.