Biography Comedy

'Joy' Film Review: From leading a revolution to revolutionizing households, JLaw delivers another knockout performance

December 25, 2015Ben MK

In David O. Russell's American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence played a frustrated housewife who was married to Christian Bale's character, a conman masquerading as a legitimate businessman. But in Russell's latest film, Joy, Lawrence is a former housewife looking to make a name for herself as a legitimate businesswoman, in this fictionalized account of the life of Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano.

When we first meet Joy (Lawrence), she doesn't exactly have her life together. On the contrary, she barely makes enough to care for her two young children; her ex-husband of two years, Tony (Édgar Ramírez), is living in her basement; and her eccentric mother, Terry (Virginia Madsen), spends every waking hour watching soap operas in her room. As the sole breadwinner of her household, Joy has a lot of responsibility to shoulder, pressure that's only worsened when her father, Rudy (Robert De Niro), fresh from his latest failed relationship, arrives at her doorstep, ready to move in too.

But things weren't always like this. Joy used to enjoy creating things. She was a dreamer once, a trait that her grandmother, Mimi (Dianne Ladd), always tried to foster. Then one day she rediscovers that desire. After coming up with the idea for a self-wringing mop, she approaches her father's wealthy widower girlfriend, Trudy (Isabella Rossellini), for seed money to start up her new venture. But despite overcoming a rough start with her manufacturer, she quickly runs into a brick wall with local retailers, and is nearly arrested for trying to sell her mops out of the back of her car in a K-Mart parking lot.

That's when Tony introduces her to his friend at home shopping channel QVC. And it's there that she meets Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), the network's head buyer, who's so wowed by Joy's miraculous invention that he immediately orders 50,000 units. Of course, that's not the end of Joy's troubles, for incompetence seems to follow her wherever she goes. Whether it's QVC's top seller bungling her product on live television or her quarrelsome half-sister Peggy's (Elisabeth Röhm) unwelcome meddling in her business dealings, Joy soon learns that the only way to get things done is to do it herself.

Clearly, Russell and co-writer Annie Mumolo have taken more than a few creative liberties in bringing Mangano's life story to the big screen. Embellishments range from the film's quirky narrative, which includes surreal soap opera segments, some of which Joy finds herself an unwilling participant in as well, to the way the movie frames Joy as some kind of super woman, able to conquer any and all obstacles in her path with little more than her steely resolve. Throughout all of this, however, there's one constant, and that's Lawrence, who delivers yet another knockout performance.

Equal parts humor and emotion, Lawrence's portrayal of the title character is the main reason to see Joy, a movie that plays like a modern-day fairytale but which also feels tailor-made to play to her strengths as an actress. Although scenarios, plot points and even characterizations occasionally have a tendency to come across as ridiculously outlandish, Lawrence is always there to anchor the proceedings accordingly. And ultimately, that makes Joy more than just the name of her character and the title of the film. It's the feeling that will wash over you as you get up to leave the theater.

Joy releases on December 25th, 2015 from Twentieth Century Fox. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for brief strong language. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 4 Mins.

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