I wouldn’t say I’m particularly a fan of Jennifer Lawrence – while I acknowledge that she’s been good in her more well-known films, such as The Hunger Games and X-Men, she’s never really stood out to me as someone who I want to see more of. In Joy, out now on Blu-Ray and DVD, I’ve finally been able to see her in a different light.
Set in the early 1990s, Joy Mangano has grown into a woman she never wanted to be – still living in the family house, she’s divorced with two kids, her ex-husband and Dad (who don’t get along) are living alongside each other in the basement, and her escapist mother is consigned permanently to her ‘comfort nest’ in her bedroom and won’t leave the television screen. She’s got a stressful job, and her dream of becoming an inventor just never happened. One day, she has an idea of an innovative mop design that starts the changes happening that she’s been dreaming of – but it doesn’t all go to plan.
The film has a very stylised feel from the beginning, with a real focus on the family dynamic. The first half of the film could be described as quite slow in pace, although this really aided both setting the scene and developing the characters. Character relationships really make this film – the Mangano family are clearly complicated, and it’s these strained and unusual relationships that move the plot forward. Diane Ladd gives an excellent performance as Joy’s grandmother, who also narrates the story, and Robert DeNiro and Édgar Ramírez are great supporting cast as Joy’s father, Rudy, and ex-husband, Tony.
Aside from Lawrence, I felt Bradley Cooper was one of the strongest performances – he only came in halfway through, but immediately made an impression as Neil Walker, the executive of the successful shopping channel QVC. The only performance I felt wasn’t as strong was from Isabella Rosselini, who plays Rudy’s love interest, Trudy – her character seemed slightly warped, and she was the only one who didn’t come across as believable.
Joy is a semi-fictional account, not biographical, and so don’t expect what you see to be what actually happened – as many have said previously, it’s rather hard to write an interesting film about a self-wringing mop. Rather, it should be appreciated for its ability to blend both comedy and a whole assortment of different emotions. The film frequently flits between hyped up excitement and despair and disappointment, and both are put across so well that it feels like we’re involved in the story. The comedy is subtle, but fine-tuned, and helps to create that important connection between viewer and characters. The pace definitely quickened during the second half, but I found myself feeling it had been going on a bit too long towards the end. There was a lot to take in, and the dramatic rushes of emotion could sometimes be quite overwhelming. David O. Russell did a good job as director, and while it got through to me that he was passionate about this story the pacing was just a bit too lengthy, which lead to the ending feeling rushed compared with the slow start we had at the beginning.
Pace aside, it was a great watch, and both the cast and the plot came together really well. The music was a great mix of different throwback songs, rather than one continuous theme, which helped to keep the story alive. The journey Joy found herself on was a great insight into the world of invention, business, and behind-the-scenes at places such as QVC – something I’d never paused to consider before. Sure, it wasn’t the ideal running time, but it was enjoyable to watch and I came away feeling inspired.
I’m giving Joy a 4/5.
Joy at CeX
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