David O. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert D’Niro. Every year seems to bring us a new collaboration from this particular foursome and this one is no different as Joy comes along right on time. While last year’s American Hustle was a great example of style over substance, this story dedicated to ‘daring women everywhere’ will be looking to capture the public’s imagination.
The particular daring woman they have chosen to focus on is Joy Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop and a whole host of other products that you probably have sitting in your home. Except it’s not entirely her story. In reality, it is a highly fictionalised account of it, with O. Russell’s script also taking inspiration from other women that have captured his imagination.
Lawrence plays the titular Joy and by now it should be no surprise that she is great. In fact, for large parts of the film she carries it. As Joy struggles to bring the Miracle Mop to life (with everyone from the factory that makes it to her own family seeming determined to get in her way) she also has to raise two kids and look after a fairly mucked up family. Through all of this one thing stays constant, your wish for her to succeed. Lawrence, of course, brings her own innate likability to the role but alongside she provides a steeliness that is vital. This is not a woman who gives up and it gives all the more power to those moments where she questions her decision in life.
The problem is that at two hours long it feels like there is a big old load of filler thrown into this film. While moments you would never think of as thrilling somehow manage to pull it off, in particular, Joy’s debut on the home shopping network that would play a big part in her fame. Others completely fail to find that sparkle. Strange dream sequences feel out of touch with the realism of the rest of the film and yet at times, the whole thing feels horribly sedate. It’s never bad, but it is a tad dull.
To O. Russell’s credit, he continues to be the man to get the best out of later day De Niro, with him slipping seamlessly into the grouchy old father role that got him an Oscar nomination with Silver Lining’s Playbook. It’s not an adventurous turn from the veteran but it’s entertaining enough and his interactions with Isabella Rossellini’s Trudy are a lot of fun. Sadly, Cooper seems to be on autopilot and at this point in his career, he can’t pull that off with quite the same style. His network executive Neil Walker seems devoid of any real personality and is instead just there most of the time. We are supposed to believe that he and Joy have developed a real relationship but it never feels alive and he ultimately becomes forgettable. A surprise considering he and Lawrence’s past chemistry.
Joy is alright and the everyday nature of that statement kind of sums it up. As always Lawrence proves herself to be one of the best, but with the talent on display on this film, you can’t help but feel it could have all just been a little bit better.