Posted December 29, 2015 by Daniel Hodgson in
Is there satisfaction to be had in Joy’s success? Yes. But it comes at a high price.
Sometimes, a painful experience is the best thing that can happen to us. When Joy cuts her hand while trying to clean up broken glass, she gets an idea that will make her millions.
Joy is in her mid twenties, and is not the success she could have been. A high school valedictorian, she could have gone off to college, but instead stayed home to look after her mother, Terry (Virginia Madsen), who’s spent the last ten years in bed, obsessively watching soap operas to cope with the divorce from her husband, Rudy (Robert De Niro), who has recently moved back in, and must share a room with Tony (Édgar Ramírez), Joy’s own ex-husband, a deadbeat who’s lived in her basement two years after their divorce. Joy also takes care of their three kids while working full-time. If you’ve figured out she doesn’t sleep much, you must be a parent.
One day, Rudy’s new girlfriend, Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) takes the family sailing, where a wine glass breaks on the wooden deck. Of course, it’s up to Joy to clean up the mess, so when she tries to wring the mop with her bare hands, she cuts her hand on glass shards embedded in the mop strings, and has to be taken to the E.R.
And that’s when Joy gets the idea for the Miracle Mop, a self-wringing mop of her own design. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, or Joy Mangano, the real-life inventor and entrepreneur, who’s portrayed here by the reliable Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence’s performance is by far the best thing Joy has going for it, playing something like a modern-day saint, surrounded by the helpless, the lost, the sinners. Poor Joy.
But in that sense, Joy is joyless, cynical. The film is directed by David O. Russell, who also helmed Silver Linings Playbook. I -loved- Silver Linings Playbook. Most everyone in it was, to some extent, mad. But they were also likable and loving, and together, they formed a supportive community for Bradley Cooper’s character (who, as it happens, also appears in this film). It was a humanistic film that believed in everyone.
Not so with Joy. Joy is about one woman against the world. Her only support comes from her grandmother, Mimi (Diane Ladd), who encouraged her to achieve her potential since childhood. Everyone else is a burden, or worse, taking advantage of her. She is an Atlas figure, who must shrug off those who rest on her shoulders, so she can get on with her own life. Is there satisfaction to be had in Joy’s success? Yes. But it comes at a high price.
Joy is a story about someone who must learn to believe in herself, to be herself, and there is something self-affirming about that. But, I think, we need to believe in the people around us as well, or we inhabit a world not worth living in. 3.5 out of 5 stars.