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Review: Joy

Roslyn Hull

(Very) loosely based on the story of Joy Mangano, the woman that invented the Miracle Mop and went on to patent more than 100 inventions.

After the stellar conclusion to 2015 in films (Star Wars – go and see it, see it now) 2016 is not starting off well. This week a remake of Point Break is due in cinemas and it begs the question – why? Why another remake? Why, oh why, oh why?

Why not make something new? Joy is new but, despite the title, it is dour.

And I had such high expectations for it. The trailer was excellent – hinting at the story but not giving the plot away. The pedigree was good too – Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in a film written and directed by David O. Russell … the team that gave us Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, so what could go wrong?

A lot, dear readers, a lot.

Russell again cast Lawrence as a woman much older than she actually is (why does he do this?) and having seen her as Katniss last month, it is hard to believe her in this role. She gives it her best and is one of the most interesting thing about the movie, I just didn’t buy her as Joy.

Then there is the script. This story has so much potential – so much – and it is wasted because we are never sure what the film is meant to be – magical? Real? Allegorical?

Apparently it did start as a biopic but during shooting the script was altered so much that it could no longer be sold as fact (some statement, considering how loose with the truth many ‘based on a true story’ films are).

The truth is buried under several weirdly surreal moments (most involving Joy’s housebound mother and the TV soap she is addicted to) and repetitively negative statements from Joy’s father and other doubters that smack of allegory. PopPsych101: her attachment to her invention symbolises her inability to let anything go (including an ex-husband and estranged father, both of whom live in the basement) and the naysayers she encounters represent the obstacles on a classic hero’s journey. She even cuts her hair to give herself power (inverting the Samson story). How am I doing so far?

I really wanted to go on the journey with Joy, I wanted to feel her anger, despair and happiness but Russell never lets the audience in. Every time I felt we were getting to the meat of the story Joy’s mother would walk in holding a bowl of soup or her sister, father and stepmother would line up to (again) tell her she could not succeed.

This uneasy union of elements from what could have been two or three separate movies has resulted in an unnecessarily long and mildly confusing product. When Russell could not dedicate the film to Joy Mangano, he instead decided to dedicate it to ‘all difficult women’ but this difficult woman is left nonplussed by the whole exercise.


Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author