Joy

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Jennifer Lawrence Joy

Loosely based on the life of inventor and entrepreneur Joy Mangano, JOY is supposed to be "a story of a family across four generations, centered on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right." ;Joy brings David O. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Bradley Cooper back together again after SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.; I had seen SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and enjoyed it thoroughly so I went into this movie with high hopes.; I had watched the trailer so I knew this was supposed to be an inspirational tale about a woman who achieves success.; Good holiday fodder.

Director Russell took artistic liberties with the true story but it follows the same basic trajectory as her life.; When a director films a movie about a real person (or event), it's complicated.; The viewer already knows what the ending is.; Spoiler: The Titanic sinks, Abraham Lincoln is assassinated, and Joy Mangano finds financial success.; What keeps a viewer motivated to continue watching this film - or see it in the first place?; Usually it's because it's a fascinating story or has compelling characters.

One of the creative choices when bringing the story to the screen was using the grandmother (Diane Ladd) as narrator.; I think this was particularly odd since the whole movie is about Jennifer Lawrence's character.; The grandmother is incredibly important to her granddaughter's life, but ultimately this story is about Joy.; Not Joy's grandma, so I thought it was distracting.; Events near the middle of the film make it even more perplexing.; That being said, they probably chose the grandmother narrator since she was the only one who believed in Joy's potential for seventeen years while everyone (including Joy) had given up hope. ;Another problem is that we see a series of weird nightmares where Joy transports her biggest problems into her mother's soap operas.; How could a movie narrated by Grandma possibly know about this?

The movie JOY spans thirty years of the protagonist's life.; We see her late childhood until she invents the Miracle Mop.; Then there is an epilogue of sorts. ; Actress Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the title character, says she was drawn to the role because Joy Mangano "had a fire and gift that she had buried for 17 years." ;Lawrence also saw the film as celebrating "women who are the unsung heroes of their households." ;The protagonist and her grandmother are the strongest members of their;dysfunctional;clan.; It's definitely a matriarchal society.

In the film, young Joy has a penchant for inventing things.; She invents a collar for her dog that prevents fleas but never gets it patented.; Seventeen years pass.; She meets a singer and marries him.We are reunited with Joy seventeen years later.; She works customer service at an airline.; She is divorced; her ex-husband lives in the basement of their ancient family home.; Her mother sits in her room watching her soap operas all day.; Joy has two children.; Her father is dropped back off on the front porch after another failed relationship.; He moves down to the basement with her ex-husband.; At this point, Joy decides her gift has been dormant too long and invents a mop by sketching it out with her daughter's crayons after learning more bad news - her hours will be cut at work.

Grandma narrates the film so she continually tells us how Joy is special and how she is going to save the family.; As the viewer, I want to know why that is Joy's responsibility.; Joy's father, Rudy (Robert De Niro) is a reasonably intelligent man.; He runs his own business.; Why does he get a pass from making something of himself?; Why doesn't the grandma do something?; She's aging, but it's never too late to reinvent herself.; Joy and her husband, Tony (Edgar Ramirez) separated for financial reasons.; He wanted to pursue his singing career while she wanted him to maintain a job for their two kids.; Why does he get a free ride? ;(Literally, the man is living free of rent in the basement.) ;Joy is special, and meant for greater things.; That's the grandmother's constant refrain.; And we hear it a lot, because she's the narrator.;

Later on after Joy invents the "last mop you will ever buy", it's not the end.; She has to convince people that they want to buy it.; Oh, and find places to manufacture it.; It's not an easy journey.; Joy has no money and literally no space.; She even sleeps on the stairs at one point.; She has to enter the cutthroat business world.; She achieves this through cutting her hair off, wearing a leather jacket with sunglasses, and firing a shotgun at a firing range for no other reason than to blow off steam.; I appreciated at one point in the film where the title character refused to dress up for the Home Shopping Network channel with their extravagant costuming, but she takes on a gender neutral costume the moment she needs to go to war in the business world.; I'd like to know when she thinks it is acceptable to compromise who she is and when it isn't, but there's no discussion.; It's almost the equivalent of an action sequence in movies where the hero wordlessly destroys the enemy and walks away.; I'm always left feeling cold when I see this on the screen.; Yes, the magnificent superhero saved the humanity, but how do they feel about ending the lives of others?; Do they think about it?; Does it haunt them?; Or is one of the superhero powers a lack of empathy?; Jennifer Lawrence's character doesn't kill anyone, but I want to know how participating in a fray in the business world affected her.

But this movie is not horrible.; My friend and I went to see it together and found many redeeming qualities: Jennifer Lawrence turns in an excellent performance.; I haven't seen her in acting roles as much as I've heard the buzz about how she adorably falls down at awards shows.; With what she has to work with, she truly embodies the part she is playing.; Another high point was her husband, Tony.; The man is quite attractive. Perhaps not attractive enough to warrant an expensive trip to the cinema, but it's definitely worth a movie rental.; In a sweet twist, Melissa Rivers plays the part of her mother.; And finally, it's always nice to see a film with a female protagonist at its helm.

Ultimately, I think the movie lacks a strong plot as well as strong character development.; In the epilogue, I am left with questions that I shouldn't have.; The reason I have those questions is that the whole movie felt like a series of vignettes that offered small snapshots of the different characters but not enough to pull together a strong, cohesive storyline.; The movie is narrated by Grandma, but has weird dream sequences of Joy's.; How would Grandma know about these?; She's not an all-knowing narrator.; There are some problems with the film, but I think most viewers will walk away with the same sentiment that my friend did: ;"Jennifer Lawrence's performance deserves a better movie."

Grade: 
3.0 / 5.0