Joy (directed David O. Russell). 2015.

With Jennifer Lawrence, Robert de Niro, Isabella Rossellini, Diane Ladd.


A single mother invents a superior house cleaning device and through the help of her father’s girlfriend, registers a patent, then goes through some difficult times where the threat of bankruptcy looms large.   Her children watch her experience the highs and lows of starting a business, and her hopes depend on her being able to sell product on cable tv.

Characters include  Joy (last name never stated) played by the incomparably charismatic Jennifer Lawrence, her ex husband lounge singer, Tony (Edgar Ramirez), her grandmother (Diane Ladd) who says things as if we are in nursery school about how women need to have the power to do something with their lives, her mother (Virginia Madsen) a bedridden person addicted to soap operas with predictable results, her children (one of whom we only hear coughing, so much for his character development. Robert de Niro is Rudy, her dad, a man in charge of a garage, who keeps trying out new relationships with women, ending up with a rich Italian named Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) who can bankroll the enterprise.


When lawyers and manufacturers employed to obtain patents and produce the mops turn out to be less than honest, and a stepsister represents her in a way she finds less than helpful, Joy proves her mettle as a businesswoman.

The story centers on the mop, its invention coming from the necessity of not wanting to wring out a wet bunch of ropes full of glass shards when you need to clean up a broken bottle. Halfway through the movie, I thought, oh, an infomercial. Maybe I should get one of these!  But in the end, even though Joy was able to invent something,  what she was able to invent, was a mop, and I could not get excited about it.   I know it was really supposed to be a feminist screed, but its main weakness was a screenplay reminding you constantly that this is a story of a woman who surmounted all odds. We should not need reminding in a good movie. We can figure that out for ourselves.






About Patricia Markert

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