Joy is about an intelligent woman who feels as though that she was meant for more, who has big ideas, but doesn’t quite know how to put these ideas into reality, until suddenly she realizes that she has to do this. Now or never, because she can’t keep living the way she’s living. Her ex-husband and her father living in her basement, her mother living through soap operas. It’s all just too much, and she’s had enough. She puts together an invention, a self-wringing mop. The movie depicts all the trials and tribulations, and the little bit of luck, that goes into thinking outside the box and trying to get people interested in the work that’s put into a creative endeavor, interested enough to buy whatever it may be that’s being sold.
I love David O. Russell’s The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, and although I think American Hustle was a messy misstep, at least portions of it were enjoyable to watch and it felt as though some serious effort was put into writing and directing it, even if the end result was a bit messy and could’ve went through another round of editing to tighten it up. Joy, however, just felt like a tonal mess that wouldn’t have worked no matter how many rounds of editing it were put through. The way the movie was directed and written are just all wrong.
For those who don’t know, this movie began life as a biopic of Joy Mangano written by Annie Mumolo (Oscar nominated co-writer of Bridesmaids), that was taken apart by David O. Russell and re-written, so much so, that Annie Mumolo only gets a story credit, rather than a writing credit. He assembled a cast of his most successful usual suspects (Lawrence, DeNiro, Cooper), along with a few new ones (Isabella Rossellini, Diane Ladd, Elizbeth Rohm, Virgina Madsen, and Edgar Rameriz) to fill out the roles of Joy’s dysfunctional family. However, none of these characters have much weight at all, or any depth. Everyone, even Lawrence to some extent, are completely wasted. Most of Joy’s family come across as caricatures except maybe Diane Ladd, who has the inspirational grandmother role, who also, is wasted.
The problem is the movie wants to be both a comedy and drama which David O. Russell usually manages to handle successfully, but in this case, it just doesn’t work, at all. It’s a complete mess in almost every respect. No one feels human, and there are simply too many characters in this story to give anyone, beyond the character of Joy, much focus.
As much as I like Jennifer Lawrence, this isn’t her Erin Brockovich. The only comparison that can be made is that Jennifer Lawrence is the sole lead, otherwise, this isn’t an Oscar-winning star turn. She’s good, but she isn’t outstanding, and in the deep field of the Best Actress race this year, I’m not sure she’s even worthy of a nomination.
This movie doesn’t work, and I wouldn’t pay full price to go see it. It’s okay at best, but it feels as though all the best elements of O. Russell’s films aren’t present here. The cast did the best they could with the material given, but none of them stand out due to a shoddy script and sub-par direction.