by Adam Riske
Joy is an unusual movie, but not in a good way. Despite a few strong performances, I found Joy to be only mildly interesting. It’s better in certain scenes on their own than as a whole. And it feels messy. Boy, does it feel like a movie charting a course without a compass. There’s something to be said about watching a movie and feeling like its filmmaker has a sure hand on the material. In the case of Joy, I feel the opposite to be true. It takes a long time to get going and even longer to figure out what the filmmakers are trying to accomplish telling the life story of entrepreneur Joy Mangano.
Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, Joy is a disappointment.
The performances in Joy are not the problem. In fact, they are quite good. Jennifer Lawrence is predictably solid as Joy – totally charismatic and interesting to watch. The only issue I have with her for this movie is that she seems too young to be playing Joy Mangano at certain parts of the story. I know it’s possible for a woman in her mid-20s to be divorced and have multiple children, but in the case of Lawrence she still looks too youthful to be dealing with the problems she is for as long as she has been in the movie. Is that a stupid criticism? Maybe. Lawrence is one of the best actors out there right now, it’s just that filmmakers seem to be so excited to have her in their movie that they are not always thinking about if she’s age appropriate for the roles she’s being given. This was an issue I had with her in American Hustle as well.
The main issue with Joy, for me, is that it tells the wrong story about the life and family of Joy Mangano. At one point in the movie it’s said that there was legal in-fighting between the inventor and her family, but that is not the story the movie Joy is telling. That could be a really fascinating, grounded movie. Instead it is telling the story of Joy Mangano’s launch of the Miracle Mop, her battles with the products investors and manufacturers (over molds and patents and such) and a really uninteresting parallel structure with how her life is similar to one of the soap operas her mother (played well by Virginia Madsen) watches ad nauseam. This is done by including multiple fantasy sequences that mirror soap operas on television.