David O. Russell’s Joy is an intriguing but subdued film that shows biopics don’t have to be full-ridden dramas. O. Russell recruits his Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle star Jennifer Lawrence to play Joy Mangano, a single mother who gets rich by inventing the Miracle Mop.
Narrated by her grandmother (Diane Ladd), the film follows the ups and downs of Joy’s life as she invents the revolutionary self-wringing mop, where she made her fortune in the 1990’s by selling it on the QVC home shopping channel. She decides to give up her job working for her father, managing his automobile repair shop in search for her next adventure. Along the way, she meets Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), the QVC executive who’s immediately impressed with her idea and gives her a shot at selling her mops through his telethon system.
In the midst of producing her idea, she finds herself battling with condescending male corporate types and various members of her dysfunctional extended family. Joy puts us into the divorcee’s life, showing us looking after her two kids, her bed-ridden mother (Virginia Madsen) and grandmother while her dad (Robert De Niro), who’s divorced from her mother, is living with Joy’s ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) in her basement.
O. Russell’s biopic is a neat telling of Joy’s life but at times, finds himself jumping between scenes and forcibly putting in flashbacks in places where they shouldn’t belong. However, this study of a woman who’s refusal to give up on her American Dream sees Lawrence giving a gutsy performance that matches up to even her career’s finest work.