I was deceived.
Much like “The Secret Of Walter Mitty” from a few years ago, the trailer for David O. Russell’s “Joy” made the film look and feel far different from what we were given. And just like “Walter Mitty,” the product we got was a massive disappointment.
With Ben Stiller’s comedy, the trailer made it look like the tale of a man who has a vivid imagination living his normal everyday life. A simple yet possibly entertaining film through how they would obscure point-of-view between reality and imaginary, especially since a lot more can be shown in a day-dream. What we got was a half-assed love story we’ve seen a million times with some admittedly beautiful cinematography and weird day-dream sequences that often felt out-of-place.
With “Joy,” I was hooked by the trailer. To be fair, anything that stars Jennifer Lawrence has my attention, but then you have her play quite possibly her most realistic yet traumatized character so far and show us only a glimpse of her breaking out of that shell, and you have a film that I will see opening night. Throw in Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper and the director of “Silver Linings Playbook,” and you get something I can get excited about.
But what we got was far from anything I could have expected.
Joy (Lawrence) is a struggling mother of two, has her divorced parents living in her house, as well as her ex-husband, works a dead-end job and always seems to be behind on her bills. This upsets her further since she was told at a young age that she would live a beautiful life where she could create things. But it seems Joy wants to work towards that dream, as she begins to build something useful – a mop.
I wish that I could make that plot synopsis more glamorous. After Joy has a revelation that her life sucks, she literally spends the rest of the film trying to make, sell and fight for her mop. This goes on for what seems like an hour and a half, and has about all the excitement of mopping.
Lawrence never raises her voice above a bored and uninterested tone, a far cry from the bombastic and lively performance we usually get out of her. It’s like someone drained all the energy out of her, and this is the husk that we’re left with. I understand that she’s been worked to death by her so-called “unhappy” life, but if this is supposed to be her rebirth and new chance to live again, you’d think she’d display a bit more emotion than beige vagueness.
Honestly, I can’t blame Jennifer Lawrence though, because the script gives her so little to work with. Like I said, most of “Joy” is about her making a mop and the trial and tribulations that come with creating such a product. There is no drama here, no reason to be invested in these characters or what happens to them.
Joy already had a pretty good life before all this – a family that would do just about anything for her, friends that were always looking to help and comfort her, even an ex-husband that refused to leave her side and looked for nothing in return. It wasn’t a perfect life, but then again what is?
Throwing all that away at to make a mop is a waste.
Everything that had gone on before Joy’s revelation, her struggles, her relationships and even her job, disappear once she begins working on the mop, so that we can see every excruciating detail of how it is made and nothing gets in our way of it. For crying out loud, Joy has a little boy, yet we never see his face or hear his name once she begins working on her project. Why even have him there if you’re not going to do anything with him?
“Joy” is based on of the true story of Joy Mangano (though you wouldn’t know it by the film, since they never tell her last name or mention her in the credits). And while Mangano did have a son and would help bring about the rise of the Home Shopping Network and QVC with her creations, that is inconsequential to this film. Unless you are going to make your film true to the smallest detail, like “Spotlight” did, then your story is going to be partly fictional, and thus should be judged on its own merits, not whether it actually happened.
I’m sure that Joy Mangano is a lovely person who had a long and difficult struggle to get where she is. I just wish this film reflected that struggle.
And overall, “Joy” is boring, uninteresting and loses its focus after the first third of the film. Lawrence looks bored throughout most of the film and is never given a chance to do anything with this character. The writing feels like something out of a documentary informing us about how this mop was made, not a major motion picture. The pacing goes from lightning fast at the beginning to introduce all these new characters who want a say in Joy’s life, to a snail’s pace as it progresses.
For a film starring Jennifer Lawrence by the director who gave Lawrence her best performance yet, “Joy” is a massive disappointment.
Final Grade: D