Joy review

A movie about a woman who invents a new kind of mop does not really sound like suitable big-screen fodder, does it? But in the hands of talent like Russell and Lawrence, Joy is an absorbing and often moving comic drama about standing your ground, believing in yourself and never losing sight of your dream.

Lawrence stars in the true story of Joy Mangano, a divorced Long Island woman struggling to juggle work and a dysfunctional extended family, who invented the Miracle Mop and went on to build an empire – first with QVC, and later with the Home Shopping Network. When we first meet Joy, her life is far from simple. She has a job, two small children, her ex-husband Tony (Ramírez) and her father Rudy (De Niro) living in her basement, and her soap opera-addicted mother Terri (Madsen) also living with her. Joy has always been a creative person. As a child she invented a new type of dog collar, but her mother didn't know how to go about getting it patented for her. So when Joy comes up with a clever new idea for a mop, she is determined to not let anything, or anyone, stand in her way of making it a success.

The real joy of Joy is watching Lawrence go about her craft – this incredible young woman truly is one of the most gifted actresses working today, and yet again she delights us with an enchanting performance. Since she broke through with Winter's Bone in 2010, she has proved to be an amazingly talented and versatile screen presence. She seems to lose herself in whichever character she is playing, so that it is not not Jennifer Lawrence we are watching on the screen, but Katniss, Mystique, Tiffany, Rosalyn or Joy. And even though she is currently 25 years old, Lawrence is just as believable playing a teenager such as Katniss, or a woman in her mid-30s such as Joy. She has already won one Oscar (for Silver Linings Playbook, another film she made with Cooper, De Niro and director Russell), but is certain to win many more – Lawrence is possibly this generation's Meryl Streep, the greatest female lead to come along in years. To be fair, though, Joy also features great performances from Cooper, Ladd and Ramírez, but the best of the supporting cast are clearly De Niro and Rossellini, both appearing to be having a ball giving Joy the financial support she needs to see her invention go into production.

But Joy is not merely a movie about a mop. It's about a strong-willed and confident woman who is determined to be a success in business, and show that she can do anything that she sets her mind to. Through all the ups and downs, from her stuggles with her family and parts suppliers who want to rip her off, through to her glorious success when she finally manages to launch her new mop on TV, we're with Lawrence all the way. And one of the best things about the film is that there is no sex, no romance – even though there is a spark of attraction between joy and QVC chief Neil Walker (Cooper), nothing happens. Which, by Hollywood standards, is a little strange, but so refreshing. Because Joy is really not that kind of movie; what it all boils down to is that the one person Joy really needs to rely on in her life is herself. As Joy herself says: "We got here from hard work, patience, and humility. Don't think the world owes you anything because the world owes you nothing."

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Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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