Joy is the story of a family across four generations and the woman who rises to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty.
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After his last two movies (Silver Linings Playbook
and American Hustle
), writer/director David O. Russell must feel like he's found the perfect formula to Hollywood success: casting Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in whatever he does. While there's no disputing the talent of either actor, there's obviously more to it than that, because the pairing didn't work out in last year's Serena
, and it doesn't work out in Joy
tells the story of Joy Mangano (Lawrence), a single mother who, along with her two children, shares a cramped home with her mother (Candyman
's Virginia Madsen), her grandmother (Diane Ladd from Wild at Heart
), her father (Robert De Niro from Goodfellas
), and her ex-husband (Deliver Us from Evil
's Édgar Ramírez). While out on a boat excursion one afternoon, Joy has a million dollar idea for a self-wringing Miracle Mop. With the financial help of her father's girlfriend (Blue Velvet
's Isabella Rossellini), she develops and builds the prototype, then patents and manufactures it, but that's where her troubles begin. Having no idea how sell her new invention, she ends up in a meeting with Neil Walker (Cooper), a marketing executive at the upstart Home Shopping Network. Although it seems like a perfect match, Joy's partnership with HSN creates a whole new set of problems.
Loosely based upon the true story of the real-life Joy Mangano, Joy
is a classic rags-to-riches story. The screenplay, written by David O. Russell and Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids
), follows Joy's journey from unknown housewife-with-an-idea to multi-millionaire entrepreneur and marketing mogul. Unfortunately for the film, much of the conflict gives the feeling that it is manufactured, and the resolutions to the struggles are way too convenient to be believable. Joy's story is kind of inspiring in an if-she-can-do-it type of a way, but the movie itself is not nearly as cheer-worthy as it could, or should, be. The whole film seems like everyone involved, from Russell on down, is just phoning it in, not putting any energy or emotion into the project.
There are flashes of greatness in Joy
, but they are few and far between. The most fun that the film has is when Joy gets sucked into the television soap operas with which her mom is obsessed; the film pops right into the TV program, with real soap stars like Susan Lucci from "All My Children" and Laura Wright from "General Hospital" gabbing and mocking themselves in over-the-top, completely ludicrous scenes. These are the types of moments that audiences expect from an Annie Mumolo-co-written movie, but alas, they are over almost as quickly as they begin, and after a while, Joy
abandons that kind of fun altogether.
At the end of the day, Joy
isn't bad. It's entertaining enough, and it's never boring at all. There's just not all that much to like about it either. It will find an audience somewhere, but it will have to search long and hard for it.