(2015) (Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro) (PG-13)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Dramedy: While living and interacting with her extended, dysfunctional family, a woman tries to turn her mop invention into a success.
- Joy Mangano (JENNIFER LAWRENCE) has always envisioned herself as an inventor, but life ultimately got in her way and she gave up on her dreams. She now works in a dead-end job as an airline counter clerk and is the mother to two kids. Her family life is a mess as well, what with her ex-husband, Tony (EDGAR RAMIREZ), living in the basement which he now shares with her father, Rudy (ROBERT DE NIRO), after his most recent girlfriend has returned him. He runs an auto garage and adjoining gun range with help from Joy's half-sister, Peggy (ELISABETH ROHM), but he clashes with Joy's mom, Terry (VIRGINIA MADSEN), upon his return home. Beyond her kids, the only person Joy can count on is her grandmother, Mimi (DIANE LADD), who's always supportive of her.
Joy's creative juices start flowing again once onboard a large sailboat owned by her father's new girlfriend, Trudy (ISABELLA ROSSELLINI). While mopping up wine and broken glasses from the deck, and cutting her hands, she envisions an easier to use mop and thus sets out to invent that. She gets nowhere with it until Tony takes her to see a friend of his who doesn't have time to see her, but hands her off to Neil Walker (BRADLEY COOPER). It turns out he runs QVC, and he's impressed enough by her moxie and later insistence that she sell her own product on air that he allows her to do just that, turning it into a runaway success.
From that point on, and with the help of her childhood best friend, Jackie (DASCHA POLANCO), as well as Tony and others, Joy tries to turn her Miracle Mop invention into a household name, but must contend with various business and interpersonal issues that threaten to derail her budding, newfound success.
- OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
- Show me a family that isn't dysfunctional in one way or another (or many, as it might be), and I'll point out that such collections of related individuals only exist in fiction or fantasies. Everyone has them because they're all filled with human beings and their typical gamut of emotions, weird wiring and less than perfect interpersonal skills. And since they exist in every home, you either have the choice of responding to that in a negative way or by having a positive outlook on such matters. You can be mad, angry and sad, or you can laugh at the human condition.
The same thing holds true in movies. I'd much rather watch a dysfunctional family interact in a comedy (and thus laugh at the characters, their situations and such) than in a drama (which can be effective and Oscar caliber, but can just as often be painful to watch, and who needs that).
Writer/director David O. Russell goes for the comedy route in "Joy," his latest film and his third collaboration with star Jennifer Lawrence. His most recent was "American Hustle," but the one before that, "Silver Linings Playbook," also took a comedic look at weird families. He and his cast (that included Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, both of whom also appear here) pulled that off with aplomb, handsome box office returns, and a slew of award love (including eight Oscar nominations).
With "Joy," he's going for the lightning strikes twice bonus round, although the dysfunctional family in this "based on a true story" tale is presumably intended to be the icing on the cake. And that's because the main gist is in watching the always-watchable Lawrence play the real-life woman who invented the Miracle Mop.
That might sound like an odd thing to make a movie about, but considering the popularity of TV's "Shark Tank" where we hear stories about how people created their inventions and hope to get them on QVC, this fictionalization of that really happening would seem to be a no-brainer.
Alas, while Lawrence is as good as ever and the film has its share of entertaining moments, the overall pic isn't anywhere as good as I was hoping for and expecting. I like the filmmaker so much that when I met him at the Critics Choice Movie Awards show a few years back, I thanked him for always making movies I knew were going to be good, especially from the script standpoint. Now I guess I'd have to tell him nice try and better luck next time.
To be fair, it's not awful. And when it clicks, such as when Bradley Cooper shows up and interacts with the title character on the business side of things, it's really something. But what seemed so effortless in "SLP" feels at times forced and off-kilter here, especially regarding De Niro as Joy's father (with neither the director nor the actor seeming to have a full grasp on the character) and some faked, soap opera on the TV sequences that seem cute at first, but quickly wear out their welcome.
Perhaps the fact that four editors -- Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Tom Cross and Christopher Tellefsen -- worked on the film should have been a signal that things might have been amiss early on and thus attempts were made to fix or at least shore up such issues in the editing booth.
For what it's worth, the editing isn't bad by any means. But it's obvious the quartet, whether working together in some fashion or individually, just couldn't piece this together to make it fly like most were probably expecting or as Russell obviously intended. Again, it's not awful, but with the bar previously raised so high and with so many of the behind the scenes and in front of the camera performers in place, I have no joy in saying that "Joy" is only okay when I was hoping for something great. It rates as a 5.5 out of 10.
Reviewed December 2, 2015 / Posted December 25, 2015
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