The Watchers

The Watchers

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Review: Joy (UK Cert 12A)

Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) is a divorced mother of two, who has always wanted to create things. Her parents Rudy (Robert de Niro) and Terry (Virginia Madsen) are divorced and Rudy has just returned to Joy's home after finishing with his latest girlfriend, whilst Terry spends her days watching TV soaps. The only sane person in the house is grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd) who encourages Joy to pursue her passion. Soon, Joy has a project- a self-wringing mop. Whilst this might not sound like the most gripping premise for a film ever, Joy transcends its traditional and predictable rags-to-riches storyline with a winning performance by the ever-dependable Lawrence in her third collaboration with director David O. Russell (after American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook). 

Russell directed and wrote the script, rewriting a story from Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids). The film is based in part on the story of Joy Mangaro, a housewife and inventor from Long Island, New York who invented the Miracle Mop. However, Joy's surname is never given in the film and the Miracle Mop is never named as such (except on the QVC screen). So it's not a biopic of Mangaro per se, more a film inspired by her life and story. 

Jennifer Lawrence's central performance as Joy is the best thing in the film. She's an unflappable lynchpin against the more outlandish excesses of some of the other characters who are trying to appear quirky but come across as irritating (Madsen especially, who is a terrific actress but has been given a bum role here). And whilst the film follows the tried and true pathway of rags-to-riches- plucky outsider has an idea and succeeds against the odds despite attempts to derail them- Lawrence is never less than watchable, whether negotiating in the boardroom for a shot at getting her mop advertised or dealing with her crazy family. She's been getting some awards recognition which is well deserved.

Robert de Niro's performance is broad but good, and he gets one of the most memorable wedding toasts ever seen on film. Diane Ladd is great in her supporting role as Joy's grandmother and film's narrator. There's a nice supporting turn by Bradley Cooper as QVC executive Neil Walker whom Joy meets whilst trying to get the mop marketed. What's also nice is the temptation is resisted to have Neil as a love interest for Joy. It's made clear very early on that Joy doesn't need a handsome prince to save her.

The script is quite uneven in places, relying on whimsy in place of anything concrete; the soap angle could quite easily be excised from the film with no major structural issues. There's some interesting use of flashback- you see the entire relationship of Joy and Tony's (Edgar Ramirez) relationship from first meeting to signing the divorce papers in about ten minutes flat- but there are elements of telling, not showing which is irking. 

Generally speaking, the film is decent enough but it can't decide what it wants to be. It could have been a much more straightforward biopic and been better for it. Still, Lawrence's performance saves it from being totally mediocre.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


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