When the latest offering from David O. Russell was announced, the whole world rolled their eyes. Yet another over-stylised comedy-drama starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper with a nostalgic soundtrack and close ups of unfathomably attractive people. While this is true of Joy, I wouldn’t necessarily lump it into the Silver Lining Playbook and American Hustle bracket. I am a huge fan of both actors and David O. Russell is certainly a very interesting film maker, but sometimes you just get a bit bored of the same kind of thing rolling over again and again. I don’t think Joy would have been less affecting had different actors been cast, however, Jennifer Lawrence was outstanding and Bradley Cooper’s part was much smaller than it seemed from the trailers.
The most important thing about this film though is the story being told, the true story. Lawrence does it justice and while we may not be used to seeing her playing a slightly older character with children and baggage in films, it didn’t feel unnatural. Nothing ever does with her. True to form she fully ingested her character and emulated it with honesty and prowess. David O. Russell knows how to direct Jennifer Lawrence, he has done it before and even managed to direct her into an Oscar win, undeservedly but that’s a story for another day. They make a great professional pairing and clearly bounce well off each other, playing roles like this seem almost too easy for Lawrence who has proven she is so much more than a teen fiction icon and a blue mutant.
The story of Joy Mangano is so uplifting and incredibly inspirational that it gives this film a real feel good factor, you come out of it thinking you could be the next Prime Minister or something. Joy Mangano was an inventor, she would invent all sorts of things that would make her life as a single mother who is also looking after her own mother and grandmother much easier. Then, one day as she was trying to mop up a red wine spill she cut her hand while wringing the mop. She came up with the idea of the self-wringing mop, or “Miracle Mop” as it is now known. Joy is broke and she needs money and help to get her new invention off the ground, in doing so she is constantly beaten down by things going wrong, either by losing money, her manufacturing breaking down and even trying to sell the product. She gets a spot on QVC to demo her mop and try to sell it and this is what becomes her turning point as she proves to be an overnight success.
The most uplifting thing about Joy Mangano is that she didn’t take any crap from anyone. She had an idea and a dream. She built her dream with her own two hands and she worked hard to get that dream to become a reality. She risked everything, she went into thousands of dollars of debt, she humiliated herself on television, she fought tooth and nail to get her product into stores. Her resilience and her strength is what makes her an incredible woman and a huge success. She is now worth around $50 million for her Miracle Mop and has since been able to invest in other small businesses and hopeful inventors needing a little cash to get their idea off the ground. Having been there herself, she has something that a lot of investors don’t have: empathy.
David O. Russell interpretation of this story felt a little too glossy sometimes and could have benefitted more from representing the blue collar American’s that the story was about. Having hopelessly beautiful people in starring roles who all scream “Hollywood Glamour” even when they are “makeup-less” and in scrubby clothes can make them difficult to relate to and often take away from the realism of the story being told. Russell shouldn’t be afraid to delve a little further into the darkness, much like he did for The Fighter. The grittiness and reality of The Fighter would have made a marked improvement on Joy.
Joy is a really great feel good film. Jennifer Lawrence is utterly charming and entrancing to watch, as she is in most films, she carries the story and she carries a slightly below par effort from Russell beyond mediocrity and into satisfactory.
Joy premieres on HBO on Saturday, October 15 at 8:00pm.