This biopic of Miracle Mop creator Joy Mangano stars Jennifer Lawrence as the titular single mom, who’s struggling to make ends meet while caring for her kids, her ex (Édgar Ramirez) and her divorced parents (Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen), who all live in the same dilapidated house and whose volatile relationships do little to provide Joy with a calming, stable home life.
But one day, Joy – who’s at the end of her rope and, the film reminds us, has been inventing things since she was girl – creates a new kind of mop. One made from a continuous piece of cotton… ROPE! And that’s when the film finds its purpose and settles down into a less frenetic rhythm. Soon, Joy’s meeting with QVC exec Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) and, before you can say “jackpot,” watching her homegrown idea spin into a bona fide sensation (complete with the requisite peaks and valleys).
While some aspects of the film are strong and work well – Lawrence is terrific, Ramirez is charming and the rags-to-riches story is pleasant – not everything does. And most of that has to do with the performances. For starters, Isabella Rossellini (as De Niro’s wealthy, eccentric love interest and Joy’s primary investor) seems to have wandered in from a Wes Anderson movie. Her character is so intensely quirky-for-quirk’s-sake that she’s completely out of sync with every other actor in every scene she’s in.
Cooper is meh and uninteresting – the studio could have probably saved a hefty sum by hiring a better, less expensive actor – and the filmmakers’ efforts to “age” him laughably consist of adding increasing amounts of grey to his otherwise unchanged stubble. And Orange is the New Black’s Dascha Polanco – as Joy’s best friend – is just as bland and wooden as she is on the small screen, so I’m not entirely sure what she’s doing in a fairly prominent role amid so many Oscar winners and nominees.
As I said, Joy isn’t a bad film. It’s good. Not fantastic, but good. It held my attention and I will admit I even got teary at one point. But, all things considered, I kind of feel like it might have worked better as a made-for-cable drama with a stronger, more linear narrative and a little less resting-on-the-laurels-of-our-past-collaborations-ness.
Special features include the making-of featurette “Joy, Strength, and Perseverance”, “Times Talk” with Jennifer Lawrence, David O. Russell, and Maureen Dowd, and a photo gallery.