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JOY

SYNOPSIS: Joy is the story of a family across four generations and the woman who rises to become founder and matriarch of a family business.

Review by Louise Keller:
A bit like sex when it fails to live up to expectations, Silver Linings Playbook director David O'Russell's film leaves us feeling disappointed. It's a great shame because there are good things about it, beginning with another great turn by Jennifer Lawrence. It's as though the filmmakers have stretched the story elements beyond their limits and have tried to make more of this rags to riches story than it actually can bear.

Loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano, who created a new household innovation - the first self-squeezing mop, the story is about dreams and overcoming the odds. Perhaps the fact that the film comes across as a mashup works against it. As a portrait of a young woman struggling to survive as she battles with a dysfunctional family, it works exceedingly well. It's the fable-like elements, story perspective and ending that lets it down.

The film begins with scenes from a black and white TV soap, complete with melodramatic dialogue and characters. It's an intriguing start and it doesn't take long to understand that the soapie is representative of the entire family that lives under the same roof - unhappily. Joy's mother Carrie (Virginia Madsen) spends her life from her bedroom watching the soap. There is chaos everywhere - from the basement where Joy's divorced Venezuelan singer husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez) is practising his act 'as the next Tom Jones', while complaining he has to share the space with Joy's divorced father Rudy (Robert De Niro), who has just been discarded by his latest mistress. Watching Joy cleaning up the yoghurt on the bedroom floor, while trying to fix leaking pipes, adjudicating the rows between Rudy, Carrie and Tony, while looking after the needs of her two young children, is like watching Cinderella succumb to the ashes and demands of an unfair world.

Focusing on the film's protagonist Joy (Lawrence), who is forever buoyed by the expectations of her beloved grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd) as someone who will make the family proud, she is the girl with big dreams who always liked to make things. First it was a dog collar; now it is a mop. The thrust of the narrative explores the ups and downs of Joy's venture into business, producing and marketing a magic mop that will make every housewife's cleaning needs a breeze. Rudy's new wealthy girlfriend Trudy (Isabella Rossellini), TV executive Neil (Bradley Cooper) and Joy's sour half sister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm) all play a part in the process; the climb up the ladder of success is by far the most interesting. The scenes at the television-shopping channel when Joy meets Neil and persuades him to buy her mop and give her a go are entertaining at least. But Cooper's role is small and insignificant, the peripheral characters are plastic and the ending is dismissible. That leaves Lawrence, and as Joy, the gal who won't be defeated, she is the film's greatest asset and decoration.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The opening scene shows an exaggerated soap opera (if that's not a tautology) playing on a black and white TV set, and this is set to become a recurring theme throughout, both as some sort of Greek chorus to events in the film as well as the ever-present sanctuary for Joy's (Jennifer Lawrence) bed-bound mum Carrie (Virginia Madsen). In fact, the film itself is a soap opera, although it occasionally strays into surreal territory. Or is it just creative confusion?

The Mangano family is dysfunctional and faintly cuckoo, not least Carrie's ex, Rudy (Robert De Niro), who is returned to the house, unwanted by his new mistress. Also sharing the house (the basement) is another unwanted ex, Tony (Edgar Ramirez) who was married to Joy and is the father of their children. He thinks he is the next Tom Jones ... Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm) is Joy's stepsister - and then through a dating service, Rudy finds romance with wealthy widow Trudy (Isabella Rossellini), who joins the clan. None of them are likeable, Mimi exepted, nor particularly interesting.

They are all poor (except Trudy) and Rudy's steel business is losing money. Trudy invites them all onto her late husband's yacht, where Joy cleans up some broken wine glasses with a mop - then wrings the mop with her bare hands. The screenplay calls for this act of stupidity so she can be propelled to the next page - where she comes up with a design for a clever new mop that can be wrung out without touching and detached for machine washing. It's a good idea and she could clean up, if things went right, which they don't. This is where the American dream crashes into the American credo of greed and commercial immorality, but the film staggers around like a drunken gambler, trying different tones as Joy makes her unhappy and tortuous way to realising her dream. It's on that path she meets Neil (Bradley Cooper) who runs the Home Shopping Channel, where goods like her mop might catch on, as counted by the thousands of phone calls registered live, at the call centre.

The screenplay drags and by the time we get to the pointy end when Joy has to stand up for her rights (in a ridiculous face off with an ethically challenged Texan businessman), we get errors of directorial judgement adding to the problems - like the symbolic but meaningless hair chopping that is immediately shown to be fake by a post-hairdresser shot. It underlines the phoniness of the screenplay, but not as in a poor soap opera but as in a poorly imagined film.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

JOY (M)
(US, 2015)

CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Elisabeth Ršhm, Edgar Ramirez, Virginia Madsen, Daschja Polanco, Donna Mills, Isabella Rossellini, Diane Ladd, Allie Marshall, Drena De Niro

PRODUCER: John Davis, Megan Ellison, Jonathan Gordon, Ken Mok, David O'Russell

DIRECTOR: David O. Russell

SCRIPT: David O. Russell (story by Russell & Annie Mumolo)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Linus Sandgren

EDITOR: Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Tom Cross, Christopher Tellefsen

MUSIC: Danny Elfman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Judy Becker

RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2015







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