Film review: Joy - David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence reunite for wry capitalist fable
Director teams with some of his favourite Hollywood stars in a knockabout comedy about a divorcee turned entrepreneur. The focus is less on her career than her crazy family, Robert De Niro included
After Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, David O. Russell reunites with Jennifer Lawrence for their third collaboration, Joy – a true-life love letter to the good old American dream. Lawrence plays Joy Mangano, a divorcee who became a hugely successful entrepreneur after inventing the Miracle Mop.
While it’s this that sparks the story, Russell, who penned the script, is only partially interested in its creation; Joy’s crazed family form the backbone here.
Robert De Niro, who previously featured in Silver Linings Playbook, plays her exasperating father Rudy, showcasing his new girlfriend (Isabella Rossellini, excellent); Virginia Madsen is her mother, Terry, who rarely leaves her room as she gorges on daytime soap operas. Also still hanging around is Joy’s ex-husband Tony (Édgar Ramirez), a singer who remains a close confidant. Russell depicts this madhouse with wry amusement.
Meanwhile, Joy encounters Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper, another Russell alum), an executive at the QVC shopping channel who sees the genius in her invention. This peek inside the inner workings of this church of consumer worship is fascinating, with Joy’s down-to-earth sales patter ensuring her mop, ahem, cleans up. Rarely has capitalism looked so colourful.
While the final act teeters on the tedious, as Joy’s ambitions become increasingly thwarted by legalities, Russell keeps it buzzing along with surreal, dreamy touches – not least segments of Terry’s soap opera brought to life. Lawrence is her usual sparky self, confident and assured, though Joy never feels like it’s her true moment of triumph. Rather, it’s just another likeable Russell-Lawrence knockabout.
Joy opens on December 31