Joy marks the third collaboration between actress Jennifer Lawrence (who plays the title role) and director David O. Russell, following Silver Linings Playbook (2013) and American Hustle (2014), a professional pairing that earned Lawrence a Best Actress Oscar for the former, a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for the latter, and Russell Oscar nominations for both.
Lawrence’s character is inspired by the real-life Joy Mangano, creator of the “Miracle Mop,” but as the story – really a fable – begins, she’s the single beacon of responsibility in her neurotic family, which always seems to be in a state of emotional chaos. This is a Cinderella story, and Lawrence winningly plays the blue-collar princess.
Despite some imaginative touches, most inspired by Joy’s mother’s obsession with TV soap operas, Joy is among Russell’s more conventional efforts (along with 2010’s The Fighter); a “rags-to-riches” underdog story which follows Joy’s journey of self-discovery and empowerment. It’s not a great movie – although it’s consistently entertaining and perceptive – but it’s a great showcase for Lawrence, who again demonstrates her considerable screen presence. (Oddly enough, the final scenes vaguely echo the original Godfather, with Joy sitting in for Brando.)
Edgar Ramirez, Elisabeth Rohm, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Dascha Polanco and Diane Ladd also enjoy good roles here, with the latter providing intermittent narration as Joy’s grandmother.
Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper, also veterans of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, respectively play Joy’s father and QVC impresario Neil Walker, with the latter providing a mid-movie boost. !