In a scene somewhere towards the middle of Joy, Jennifer Lawrence is thrust on a stage, in front of a camera to sell a self-wringing mop she invented. It is a moment of liberation, literally and figuratively; as Jennifer encapsulates the realisation her character has that this is her moment in the sun. This is possibly the only chance she has to rid herself of the routine mundane and often stressful life she lead and enter a world of success; her chance at a fairy tale ending. It is this sense of redemption and empowerment that drives Joy though as a satisfying experience despite the flaws.
The story of a broke single mother who invents a self-wringing mop that promised to change the lives of American women forever, including her. A semi fictionalised account biopic of Joy Mangano, Joy uses light humour to lighten serious domestic bickering and underlying tensions in strained relationships.
We see Joy constantly cleaning up the mess her family is; from an estranged in-denial parents, her own divorced husband living in her basement, her daughter and a life of unfulfilled dreams. The cleaning never stops almost for Joy, with her sister ruining early chances of success in her business. It is in this context that the self-wringing mop, her invention, becomes a metaphor for her discovery of courage and power to “mop” through the troubles and emerge clean and happy in the end.
Jennifer carries the film on her shoulders in the titular role, with a nuanced performer one has now come to expect from the power house talent that she is. What catches the eye most is the silent resilience and determination to make it that she brings to her part effortlessly.
So then the flaws. And the biggest one here is that, Joy is not an underdog, she is not a victim who survives despite. Joy is a strong woman- her story is straightforward and point-blunt. She is one who overcomes failures with grit and fixes things herself, accepting the limits of her ability to set things right. That does not make for a gripping cinematic tale. Added to it, the humour here is extremely understated, freewheeling almost. Director Russel, in his third collaboration with Jennifer, gives us a casual film about serious things that happen to Joy.
Yet, see Joy one must, purely for the pleasure of watching Jennifer Lawrence in a role that needs her to be casual, not display great histrionics but just get under the skin of the character just enough to give an understated part meaning and heft. That in itself is reason good enough to not miss this little gem of a film.