Director: David O. Russell
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert Di Niro, Bradley Cooper
In the first few minutes of the film, Joy(played by Jennifer Lawrence) narrates a fairytale to her friend. The friend asks her where the handsome prince is. To which she replies “I don’t need a handsome prince.” Fast forward to 20 years later, and we see her living with a soap opera-watching mother, a basement- occupying ex-husband, and a mostly absent dad. Clearly, things haven’t worked out for her. As things often go with biopics, a bunch of heartwarming stuff follows, which is followed by more heartwarming stuff. After a point, we get bored of all the warming of the heart going on.
David O. Russell, one of the finer filmmakers right now, does a good job, but seems to falter every now and then. Marketed as a biopic, Russell takes many creative liberties with the screenplay.
Based on the true story of Joy Mangano, a housewife, the film pays tribute to the entrepreneurial and inventorial spirit of humankind. For the uninitiated, Mangano has been a prolific inventor throughout most of her life and holds patents for more than a 100 household products, the most famous of which has been the ‘Miracle Mop’.
Joy is one of the films designed to give one that warm fuzzy feeling of being a part of someone’s journey. But the fact that Hollywood requires a 25-year-old actor to play the role of a 36 year old businesswoman in a movie about female emancipation shows that all is not right. Currently the highest paid actress in Hollywood, Lawrence still earns a third of the highest paid actor, Robert Downey Jr.
Even though she is getting meaty roles, only time will tell if Lawrence can remain at the top.
At times, the story seems like a project of self-gratification undertaken by the real-life Joy Mangano rather than an objective account. However, having watched every Salman Khan movie since Wanted, most of us are quite used to self gratification at the movies.
The movie is driven by the true story of Joy Mangano, the self made millionaire housewife who refused to be put in a box. It is one of the stories that salutes the triumph of greatness amidst mediocrity. The movie lies somewhere between a biopic and a fictional story as David O Russell has taken liberties with details of Mangano’s life. This coupled with the fact that Mangano is one of the executive producers on the project makes the story seem like a project of self-gratification rather than an objective account. However, having watched every Salman Khan movie since Wanted, most of us are quite used to self gratification at the movies.
The trio of Bradley Cooper, Rober De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence reunite after Silver Linings Playbook. Although Bradley does not have much to do here, he is convincing as Neil Walker, the TV network executive.
Robert De Niro’s character is slightly more complex as he oscillates between being supportive of her daughter’s ambitions, and then putting her down when the going gets tough. At one point, he gets her funding for her business at another, he states “It’s my fault for letting her believe that she’s more than just a housewife.”
The supporting characters are swept aside whenever convenient and the focus rests too much on Mangano. This means we hardly ever see her through the eyes of others, and are constantly told about her struggles and how she could do no wrong. After a while, it begins to seem much like a PR exercise by Joy Mangano herself. Jennifer Lawrence brings a swagger to her role much beyond her years. As heartwarming as the tale may be, Lawrence delivers a performance which is not her best, and is quite unlikely to win her the Oscar for Best Actress.