In Theatres: 
Dec 25, 2015
Running Time: 
124 minutes

Joy marks the third collaboration between David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence after Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. It also happens to be the weakest of the trio as it lacks the charisma and passion we saw in the others. By David O. Russell standards that’s still pretty good, but at this point his films have become familiar and predictable, both in style and story.


Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) is a single mother taking care of her two kids, not to mention helping house her mother, ex-husband, and now father (Robert De Niro). Between work and never saying no to her family, she rarely finds any time to herself. It’s far from the creative aspirations she had when she was a kid. Disappointed at how her life has turned out, she channels her younger self and invents a self-wringing mop that is more durable than your average mop and can be cleaned in the wash. Believing her mop to be better than any other mop on the market, Joy builds a business revolving around her product. The struggles of proving her mop to others, however, will prove to be more stressful and overwhelming than anything she’s faced before.


If there’s one thing David O. Russell has perfected over the years it dysfunction, and Joy has plenty of that in the Mangano family. The house is a very chaotic environment, between her mother Terry (Virginia Madsen) constantly watching soap operas and never leaving her room for anything, her ex-husband Tony (Édgar Ramírez) living in her basement, and now her father moving in and causing more drama between everyone. While I’ve grown accustomed to O. Russell’s dramatic style of arguments it’s a bit too over-the-top this time around. It all feels like one of the soap operas Terry can’t stop watching. Like a soap opera, it too can be difficult to look away once you start watching, however.


What drives Joy is Jennifer Lawrence’s performance. If anyone can make the invention of a new mop interesting, it’s her. Watching her transition from a single mother doormat who basically lets everyone walk all over her into a strong and independent mogul by building her empire is fantastic. Not many people can capture the two faces of that coin, but Lawrence is wonderful in the role.


Unfortunately, everyone else is simply average. It feels like everyone is just going through the motions. Even Bradley Cooper’s appearance as an executive at the Home Shopping Network comes off as lackluster. There are few memorable scenes or even characters besides Joy herself that leave any lasting impression. It’s still a good film, just not great.


Usually saying, “It’s another David O. Russell film” would be high praise, but Joy lacks the excitement and humor of his previous films. Jennifer Lawrence is great in the titular role, but her performance emphasizes how standard everyone else’s are. There’s plenty for fans to enjoy, but general audiences won’t be missing out on much if they decide to skip this one.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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