Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
David O. Russell is back with a new Film starring his favourite muse, Jennifer Lawrence. Loosely based on the true story of Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano (who also serves as Executive Producer), Joy is the ultimate Oscar vehicle; as the audience witnesses Lawrence transform from haggard divorcée with two kids to a strong business woman able to take on the world.
Joy’s life as a single mother has been one never ending soap opera: from a mother (Virginia Madsen) who won’t leave her bedroom, a father who needs to move back in, and an ex-husband who won’t move out, Joy is due a little joy in her life. After a particularly painful eureka moment, Joy is inspired to create a self-wringing mop that she believes will change not only her own life but also the lives of housewives everywhere.
Thanks to an investment from her father’s girlfriend, Trudy, and an introduction facilitated by her ex-husband, Joy finds herself at QVC and nestled under the non-romantic wing of Neil Walker who guides her through the complicated world of home shopping.
Despite the presence of strong male co-stars in Robert DeNiro (Rudy), Bradley Cooper (Neil), and particularly Édgar Ramírez as Joy’s ex-husband, Tony, Joy is a story about women. Even Joy’s son Tommy is mostly ignored in favour of scenes with daughter Christie.
If grandmother Mimi, played by Diane Ladd, is the heart of the Film as Joy’s moral support then combative half-sister Peggy (Elizabeth Röhm) is the built-in antagonist who keeps pushing Joy’s buttons and inadvertently making her a stronger person. Isabella Rossellini is a stand out as Trudy, the lonely, rich widow who thanks to boyfriend Rudy, decides to initially finance Joy’s dream.
Never one to stop at suggested metaphors, Russell takes his soap opera motif to a brilliant extreme. Emmy winning soap veterans Susan Lucci, Laura Wright and Maurice Bernard camp it up delightfully and make the most of their brief screen time.
Joy isn’t Lawrence’s strongest performance but it is perhaps the first time she has been asked to carry a Film almost single-handedly. Her supporting cast stand back just enough and allow her to shine Oscar bright.
The team of Russell, Lawrence, Cooper and De Niro can be taken at face value as a winning combination. To paraphrase the QVC pitch that sold millions of mops: Joy is the only Movie you’ll need this holiday season.
20th Century Fox Canada release JOY Christmas Day.