An uninspiring depiction of the American Dream

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With Box Office hits like Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook on her resumé, the expectations were high for Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence for her role as Joy Mangano in biopic Joy. Jennifer Lawrence delivers to a certain extent, but the movie fails to captivate the audience. It pains me to say that it lacks a certain Hollywood flair; it is a realistic presentation of how one may come to fulfill the American Dream, however the movie misses out on excitement and a true goal, as a result making it a struggle to watch and to stay engaged.

Joy is based upon the life of Joy Mangano, who became famous for her invention of the self-wringing Miracle-Mop and went on to invent many more practical household solutions. Joy’s life turns into a struggle at a young age when her parents get a divorce. Her love for inventing is reignited 17 years later, after a failed marriage that resulted in two kids. However, making things work as a woman in the business industry was tough to say the least; Joy runs into the necessary problems along the road while trying to juggle entrepreneurship and a broken family.

For those who go to the cinema with the expectation of seeing the newest J.Law action, this movie is most likely a bitter disappointment. Those who read up before going to see a movie will perhaps be less surprised by this dull representation of Joy Mangano’s life, but it is doubtful that they will be amazed by the end result. The cast and crew of Joy explicitly mentioned in interviews that the movie was not purely based on Joy Mangano, but also on other strong, independent women in director David O. Russell’s life. This is also shown in the intro credits, “Inspired by the true stories of daring women, one in particular.” The reasoning behind this is hard to find, however the main reason seems to be that there were not enough details known or disclosed about Mangano’s early life. In trying to incorporate other stories, or at the very least making it appear so, Joy is not as joyful as it could have been.

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The most striking component that doesn’t fall short completely is the performance by Jennifer Lawrence. Her facial expressions describe Joy’s feelings and what is going on in her head impeccably. Frustrations about family and setbacks in business made Joy’s venture into entrepreneurship harder than it should have been and Lawrence executed this in an admirable manner; considering she seems rather young to be playing this part of a middle-aged mother. For trying so hard she may very well deserve an award, however winning the Golden Globe Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy seems unfitting, especially when compared to other nominees, among whom Melissa McCarthy (Spy) and Amy Schumer (Trainwreck).

Russell’s signature can be seen in the cut-aways to soap operas and the frequent image filling headshots, as well as the use of flashbacks in order to understand how Joy grew into the woman she is today. Yet, in the end Russell just doesn’t manage to captivate the audience like he did in Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. The characters are insipid in a way that it is especially demanding to gain real sympathy or empathy for any of them. Compared to other collaborations when Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and director David O. Russell worked together, notably in Silver Linings PlaybookJoy is passed off as a rather ordinary life, where in reality it is an amazing story of a woman kicking ass in a man’s world.

Joy Mangano’s life is a bit of a mystery and she works hard to keep it that way. Perhaps this is why David O. Russell decided to also take inspiration from other women in his life. Although Mangano’s life certainly is remarkable and worth telling as an American Dream coming true, Joy lacks the fireworks to make it the biopic it could be and left me, as well as moviegoers around me, a bit disappointed as the end credits rolled by.

2.5 Stars

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