My Rating: 7 out of 10
After being disappointed by American Hustle in 2013, I was unsure of what to think about Joy when I first saw the trailer. I love both Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, and I thought that director David O. Russell did a phenomenal job with Silver Linings Playbook, but American Hustle was the wrong combination of too many things that somehow led to a film that was both over-the-top and boring. Yet I have to say that while Joy was not perfect, it did exceed my expectations and I do recommend checking it out.
Joy is the pseudo true story of entrepreneur Joy Mangano (played by Jennifer Lawrence), who created a business empire by patenting dozens of unique household items. She began her journey with the creation of the Miracle Mop, a mop that doesn’t need to be rung out by hand. Joy has a difficult home life dealing with taking care of her two children while her ex-husband spends his time in her basement trying to startup a singing career. On top of this, she needs to deal with her divorced parents and jealous half-sister. Her father bounces from relationship to relationship before ending up back in Joy’s house while her mother is afraid to leave the house and spends all her time watching soap operas. Despite all this, Joy manages to overcome these obstacles and become a successful inventor by teaming up with Neil Walker (played by Bradley Cooper), a home-shopping executive.
I love that Joy is so strong as a character, but always stays connected to who she was beforehand. During a time when the wealthy are looked at not as people to aspire to be, but as people who are to blame for everything wrong with the world, Joy is a rags to riches story that I feel inspires people to fight for what they want without losing touch with themselves. This is an everyman (everywoman) story of someone who became successful despite the odds, despite people not believing in her, and despite parts of her family holding her back. She chose to do things her way instead of getting screwed by the people around her and then put herself in a place to help others. She has that creative spark and the desire to create things even though it isn’t easy.
As Joy says in the film, “the world doesn’t owe you a thing.” Instead of viewing all wealthy people as cheaters who rig the system to selfishly hoard wealth and then refuse to help others, Joy inspires potential entrepreneurs to keep fighting for what they want and never let the fire of their ambitions go out. This is a message that many young people need to hear. You are the only person who can make your dreams come true, but the people around you can help you even if they are just there to lean on. Joy’s family holds her back for the most part, but she still loves them and continues forward despite the difficulties they cause for her. While her family is mostly selfish, Joy is seeking to do something that is bigger than herself, which is so poignant and personal to me. I love movies that inspire me to go and work on a creative project when I leave the theatre and Joy is definitely one of those movies.
I thought the acting was spot on, but with a cast like this one I would honestly be shocked if it were anything less. Jennifer Lawrence embodied the character excellently. She is dragged down by life, but still strong and youthful due to her drive and the support of her ex-husband, grandmother, kids, and Neil. Her family is goofy and over the top, but they are real. I know families just like that, who are full of characters that can make you laugh while also making you uncomfortable. I thought the filmmakers made a good choice not to take the story too seriously since the quirky family definitely could have been shown through a different lens that could have made the film much darker and less enjoyable. I particularly loved the soap opera parallels at the beginning since Joy’s story was pretty dramatic.
In terms of scope, the movie tells a very long story and it can sometimes be hard to tell how much time has passed. Obviously it would take at least months for all the time to transpire, but it can be easy to get lost in the timeline with everything that’s going on. Also, I think that certain parts of the story were a bit rushed. For example, Joy’s ability to get on television so quickly seemed to come so fast without any real reason other than Neil having a good feeling about her and deciding to put her on air. On top of this, the first act of the movie was a bit slow in getting to the point as it was spent establishing who Joy was, which I think was necessary to really care about her. However, this choice did prevent us from getting into the meat of the story, which didn’t so much bother my overall opinion of the film, but could certainly be a turn off to some.
To continue off the point about Neil letting joy on television with almost no real lead up, the ultimate resolution also seemed a little rushed. Things kind of went in just the way Joy wanted, which worked to establish her as someone who was both smart and powerful, but I thought it would have created more trouble for her than it did. This kind of took away from the strength of the film’s message as it let Joy off too easy when times were particularly tough. On top of this, there could have been a more powerful antagonistic force in the film.
Overall, I definitely think anyone that is a fan of Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, or David O. Russell should try to see Joy in theaters. The acting was great (though to be honest, I don’t think Jennifer Lawrence will win an Oscar since it is not a very new type of character for her), the writing was good with a couple of issues, and the message was strong.