Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars
For many, including myself, Christmas represents that rare time of year that you visit family members on a much deserved day off of work. For some, the holidays are absolutely dreadful and for some the holidays are absolutely delightful. Since some of my relatives read my online movie reviews, I’ll bite my tongue on which category I fall in. But when you get together with your dysfunctional family, try and keep one thing in mind: It could be worse, but it can always be better. Take Joy Mangano’s (Lawrence) family for example.
Living in Joy’s tiny New York home is her loving, caring, and always encouraging grandmother, Mimi (Dianne Ladd). Mimi has always been in Joy’s life, inspiring her to do better and keep that flame of creativity going. Then there are Joy’s two children, a girl and a boy, that she sees that same flame in. Joy holds that trio near and dear to her heart, and couldn’t see life without them. That living situation would be ideal, but her home is filled out with others.
Despite a bitter divorce, her parents are under the same roof. Her mom, Terry (Virginia Madsen) sits in the bed like a vegetable, watching soap operas all day. Her father, Rudy (DeNiro) recently got dumped and is living in the basement with Joy’s ex-husband, Tony (Edgar Ramirez). Those three she could easily live without, considering all three find something new to argue about every day. No matter how strong Joy’s mental and emotional fortitude is the living conditions are obscenely stressful.
What makes Joy strong-willed in her home of horror is her mind. She has a knack for crafting and creating things that come to her mind on the fly. Even at an early age she displayed a creative curiosity, but it was quickly ignored by her parent’s divorced and then buried when her loser husband entered the pictured. Despite being a charming gentleman, he makes for a lazy father and an even more slothful participant in the American workforce. Because of that, Joy attempts to hold up her home on her meager salary at an airline company. Through sheer chance, she comes up with an idea for the Miracle Mop.
In the most unlikely of stories, David O. Russell has found a mix of holiday sentimentality and his own brand of awkward humor in the true life story of Mangano, a multi-millionaire entrepreneur. How much of “Joy” is true? Probably about as much as Russell’s last movie, “American Hustle”. Liberties with facts have to be taken and you have to craft something around Lawrence’s Oscar winning abilities. How else could you sell the story of the inventor behind a QVC goldmine to a major motion picture company?
The highlight of “Joy” is watching Lawrence at work. At this point in her career, it’s safe to say that anything she does (besides her cameo in “Dumb and Dumber To”) is going to be thespianism pay dirt. It’s a little tiresome to see Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro once again having to ham it up in a Russell movie, but their sight is welcome and their performances match the eccentric and quirky characters they play. The real gem of the movie Isabella Rossellini, who plays a woman that helps finance and guide Mangano.
By the time “Joy” wraps up, it loses a lot of its emotion because it slowly becomes a commercial for QVC; as long as you’re willing to believe that QVC and other home shopping networks are the good guys in corporate America who support and nurture entrepreneurship. Lawrence doesn’t quite sell that idea, but she helps sell “Joy” as a thoughtful holiday flick. So if you’re looking for an escape or even a way to spend time with your family on Christmas, bring a little “Joy” into your life.