Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Apparently, the pairing of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper works well for movies. Witness the success of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. So when Joy hit the theaters starring this dynamic duo, I figured the movie would be a success. But did I want to see it. The promos for the film really didn't inspire that "gotta see it" feeling in me. In fact, I saw the dysfunctional family at the story's core and decided that I had seen this before (see Silver Linings Playbook). Then, I found myself on a plane with hours to go and nothing to do and decided, why not?
A fictional comedy-drama based on real life self-made millionaire Joy Mangano, Joy stars Jennifer Lawrence in the title role. The movie is narrated by grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), who encourages Joy from a very young age to keep dreaming. And for her part, Joy, it would seem is a very imaginative child. This proves to be a very good trait for Joy as, in a large working class family mainly supported by her father's (Robert De Niro) garage, Joy has a knack for inventing her own forms of entertainment.
But Joy's imagination comes to a grinding halt when the family is torn apart by divorce. Jealous half-sister Peggy (Elizabeth Rohm) finds herself living with her father and managing his garage with him. Instead of going to college, Joy remains at home, keeping her father's books at the garage while her mother copes with the loss of her marriage by staying confined to her bedroom watching soap operas. Joy's only foray into the imaginative life happens when she marries singer Tony Miranne (Edgar Ramirez), but their storybook marriage ends in divorce after the birth of two children. Despite their failed marriage, Tony still lives in the house with Joy and her mother, helping to raise the two children while searching for singing gigs.
While visiting with her father and his millionaire widow girlfriend, Joy's imaginative side is stirred. She comes up with an idea for a new type of mop, one that you can wring out without ever touching the mop head...a super absorbent mop whose head can be removed and thrown in the laundry to be re-used again. Despite the odds stacked against her and with the help of her best friend (Dascha Polanco) and her ex-husband, Joy fights the urge to quit the project and peddles her idea to QVC mogul Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) and her mop is a hit. But problems arise as soon as the mop becomes popular. Can Joy wrestle control over the patent for her invention and fight off all of the nay-sayers in her life or will she throw in the towel and give up on her dreams?
When I thought that Joy might be a repeat performance of Silver Linings Playbook, I couldn't have been more wrong. Joy is its own film, based on the true story of one woman's fight to make her dream a reality. Joy is an uplifting film that teaches us to follow our dreams despite the hardships that may get in the way. Jennifer Lawrence is excellent in this role, but then again, when hasn't she been good at portraying a strong female character who fights for what she believes in, stumbles along the way, yet still manages to land on her own two feet and continue the fight? You'll find yourself rooting for Joy and loathing some of the members of her family who try to bring her down. Virginia Madsen is hilarious as Terri, Joy's mother and Robert De Niro is loathsome as Joy's father (a turn of events from the last movie he co-starred with Lawrence in).
Billed as a dramedy, I found Joy to be a bit more serious than most dramedy's, perhaps because of the lesson being taught and perhaps because it is based on an actual individual's life. After all, real life is often funny, but the serious moments often outweigh the funny, especially in the moment. That being said, I found Joy to be a fun watch, one with an incredibly uplifting message about following your dreams, despite the nay-sayers and other obstacles in your way. Though not seen together often in the film, the magic of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper strikes again. Joy was definitely a film worth seeing.