Joy Blu-ray Review
Perhaps you remember the Miracle Mop infomercials, with their hokey demonstrations and phone-in testimonials. Maybe you used one or still use one. Maybe you came across an original model at a yard sale and laughed at the $10 asking price. Or not, because it’s just a mop and who can bother to remember every mop, broom or dish towel they’ve ever owned?
Of course, JOY isn’t really about a mop. It’s not even so much about its inventor, Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence, who earned her fourth Oscar nomination). It’s about climbing a ladder no one knew was set up. Joy is divorced, has two kids and lives with her mother (Virginia Madsen, BURNING BODHI), grandmother (Diane Ladd, in her first movie appearance since 2008) and ex-husband (Édgar Ramírez, DEVILER US FROM EVIL). She struggles to make ends meet and manage the household.
Something has to change and so Joy makes it happen. After a rather convenient mishap (these are unsubtly hinted at until Joy finally stumbles across the “big one”), Joy comes up with the idea for a self-wringing mop. From there, she raises funds, hits the QVC market and develops a multi-million dollar business. There are, naturally, several roadblocks involving shady businesspeople and financial woes, all of which strengthen Joy’s determination.
Before the credits roll, the following text appears onscreen: “Inspired by true stories of daring women. One in particular.” This is meant to establish the purpose of JOY, but what it truly does is reveal director David O. Russell as wildly unconfident and unsure of his own skills. The audience doesn’t need to be told that Joy Mangano was a daring woman—the content of the movie should be able to do this. This displays such a lack of confidence on the part of Russell that the audience, too, might wonder if he really wanted to tell this story or if he just wanted to spend more time with his frequent collaborators.
JOY again teams Lawrence with Bradley Cooper (who plays a QVC executive who gives Joy her television debut) and Robert De Niro (who plays Joy’s father, Rudy), who all worked together under Russell on 2012’s SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and 2013’s AMERICAN HUSTLE, both championed and adored by moviegoers and the awards circuit. But JOY lacks the sort of energy and ambition that the previous efforts (both of which earned Oscar nods for Best Picture) had.
Just about the entire movie feels off and inorganic, most notably the structure, the subplots and the performances. What’s with the nonsensical musical numbers and soap opera skits? Or the wasteful flashbacks detailing Joy’s relationship with Tony? Or the performances by Lawrence and Cooper—the former’s complexity stopping at the Long Island accent, the latter given by an actor who looks out of place and feels lumped in. (The only commendable turn is from De Niro, who shows off a subtle sense of humor that allows him to steal most of the scenes he’s in.)
This is a cast and crew comprised of familiar faces and names that can be thrown on the poster. But it has to be more than just that and it has to offer more to latch onto than the rags-to-riches element.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This is a clean transfer that boasts fine details, healthy colors and an overall impressive image that lends to the era.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English Descriptive Audio 5.1; French Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles in English, French and Spanish. Dialogue is clean, but the audio track sometimes feels cluttered or unnatural.
Joy, Strength and Perseverance (20:21): This featurette includes clips, on-set footage and interviews with the real Joy Mangano, Jennifer Lawrence, David O. Russell and more.
Times Talk with Jennifer Lawrence, David O. Russell and Maureen Dowd (1:07:42): This lengthy interview features New York Times columnist Dowd interview the star and director of JOY. There is some good chemistry for fans of the pair, but there are many cringeworthy moments, including Dowd asking Lawrence what kind of mop she uses and Russell’s inability to hide his cocky, pretentious attitude.