A story based on the life of a struggling Long Island single mom who became one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs.
2015 has seen some very successful biopic released to pretty much nonstop critical acclaim. Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies was a fantastic Cold War spy movie starring Tom Hanks, and Danny Boyle’s awesome Steve Jobs focused on Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of the man behind the tech giant that was Apple. And then there was Straight Outta Compton, which I haven’t yet had the chance to see, but focuses on the N.W.A, and received very positive feedback. So I was interested to see what would come of David O Russell’s Joy, looking behind the scenes of the woman who was responsible for the creation of the mop, Joy Mangano, a self-made millionare who created her own business empire.
Joy sees David O. Russell (The Fighter, American Hustle) reunite with Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper for the semi-biographical drama that adopts a different tone to the three films above. It’s more comedic and puts Joy in a leading spotlight as she overcame both professional and personal obstacles to rise to the top. For the most part the film works, but like the recent In The Heart of the Sea, it never feels memorable. Sure, it looks good, and the soundtrack, with songs like A Little Less Conversation, is a killer, but does it all work? Sadly not. The performance from Jennifer Lawrence is great but the film can’t match the brilliance of Steve Jobs or Bridge of Spies for example, as it fails really make the audience invest in the subject matter, which is of course, the mop.
It’s undoubtedly a star vehicle for Lawrence and she and David O. Russell will no doubt be the biggest draw as let’s be honest, who’s going to see a film about the invention of a mop if it didn’t have some big names attached to it especially when the new Star Wars is in theatres? However, whilst the tone of the film is fairly even, adopting a comedic pace throughout, the pace isn’t, stopping and starting throughout the movie and maintaining a sloppy consistency with the narration provided by Joy’s grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), and never feels needed at all. That said though, the supporting cast is mostly decent. Edgar Ramirez plays a fun role as Anthony, Joy’s ex-husband, a musician, who still lives in their basement, and hates her father, Rudy, played by Robert De Niro, who shows up at the door having been thrown out of the house by his new wife and needs a place to stay. Naturally, this is something that Joy’s mother (Virgina Madsen) also isn’t too happy with, and as a result, this makes life hell for Joy at the beginning as she’s fallen away from her dream of inventing things in favour of a lousy job at an airport.
Another thing that I didn’t quite like about Joy was the casting of Bradley Cooper. I’ve never been a fan of his performances and he does nothing to convince me here, which is kind of unfortunate because he, like Lawrence, seems to crop up in several David O. Russell movies, with the director having a strong habit of reusing leads multiple times. I don’t have a complaint with the reuse of Lawrence as she is normally good, but sadly, Cooper was a disappointment here.
The film itself often feels like a two hour long montage, and never really quite has the depth it needs to succeed, feeling flashy but lacking enough impact to feel well rounded and memorable. The character portrayal from Lawrence works well, and whilst there are some good scenes throughout, it’s more likely to leave the audience disappointed, making use of several cliches and doing nothing to stand out from the crowd.