FILM REVIEW - JOY
Directed by David O. Russell.
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Édgar Ramírez.
Mops! Woohoo yeah!!!
Gandhi. JFK. Martin Luther King. Joy Mangano. Thank you, David O. Russell, for bringing the inventor of the Miracle Mop into the cinematic pantheon of history’s greatest inspirational figures. If it’s a premise that appears ill-judged, then it’s nothing compared to the mess of the finished product.
Magnano (Jennifer Lawrence) is a single mother struggling to hold down a full-time job and raise her children with an agoraphobic, bed-ridden mother (Virginia Madsen) and an ex-husband (Édgar Ramírez) that won’t move out of her house. Then one day she gets out her crayons and designs the Miracle Mop. Magnano hits up her working class father (Robert De Niro) and his wealthy girlfriend (Isabella Rossellini) for funding and puts her device into production. At first her mop is a flop, but then it’s a huge success and Magnano becomes a QVC sensation. In terms of a compelling narrative of triumph over adversity, it’s not exactly Gravity.
It’s not clear how much of Annie Mumolo’s original script remains after an extensive rewrite by Russell, but what has made it to screen is truly appalling. The narrative path isn’t so much foreshadowed as screamed through a megaphone and driven towards the inevitable conclusion with flashing neon arrows.
Joy is a movie that tells us where it’s going and then goes there. At one point, Bradley Cooper’s QVC executive tells Magnano, “We’re friends now, but there may come a time in the future when we’re not.” Well, guess what happens?
There’s not an ounce of emotional substance to this story, and it is impossible to become invested in drama that hasn’t been earned. The creative apathy at script level contaminates an impressive cast that reeks of called in favours. Lawrence gives her best, but everyone from De Niro, Cooper, Madsen and Diane Ladd drift in and out of scenes with an air of obvious bewilderment, and none can convince that their hearts are in this venture.
Joy is Russell’s eighth feature (ninth if you count the disowned Accidental Love) and he’s turning out to be a pretty inconsistent filmmaker. It’s also the director’s third collaboration with Jennifer Lawrence, and judging by this evidence the well has run dry. It’s about as far as you can get from his thoroughly enjoyable Scorsese cover version, American Hustle. At the start we’re told that Joy is “inspired by the true stories of inspirational women everywhere.” Inspirational women everywhere must be feeling very hard done by. It’s disjointed, ill-conceived and utterly pointless.