Joy Review: Success at a price
LOVE, inspiration and family are all the things you would expect from a film titled Joy.
But that is all too mundane for a director whose signature is deadpan, understated comedy-drama centred on complex characters.
Throw in a shotgun, narcissistic relatives, a live-in ex-husband and a mop and you've got David O. Russell's latest creation with his acting muse, Jennifer Lawrence.
The biographical film from the man behind American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook is based around the real- life creator of the Miracle Mop, Joy Mangano (also an executive producer of the film).
But it has a painful twist on the protagonist's customary obstacles, which Lawrence as Joy, a big-dreaming single mum, has to overcome. That twist comes in the form of her uniquely twisted family.
Joy's relatives, including Robert De Niro as the father obsessed with his own love life, seem to latch on to her like parasites as she tries to see her invention realised and they, mostly unwittingly, try to drag her down into their own self-absorbed worlds.
There are moments when it is on purpose. Her half-sister Peggy, played by Elisabeth Rohm, sabotages Joy's attempts to commercialise her invention.
The exception to the rule is Joy's grandmother, who narrates the story. She encourages her beloved grand-daughter through a failed marriage, broken dreams and the rough and tumble life of a child with a socially inept mother to rise up and become the family's matriarch.
In her darkest hour, Joy tells one of her children "Don't ever think the world owes you anything, because it doesn't".
Yet Joy manages to create her opportunities, with a little help from her continued confidant - her ex-husband played by Edgar Ramirez - and meets TV executive Neil Walker, played by Bradley Cooper, a fellow muse for Russell.
Her refusal to be dolled up for her stint on TV is symbolic of her taking hold of her life
Joy fights male chauvinism and remains true to herself while she convinces Walker to give her a shot on his shopping channel at selling her mop.
When everything falls apart she rises up to take on a Texan fraudster and eventually goes on to found a business dynasty called Ingenious Designs.
Lawrence's portrayal of Joy is as strong and inspiring as the character herself, who uses her joy for life to succeed even when her family is telling her she simply doesn't have the strength.
Unfortunately, not even Russell is able to mop up the mess the movie becomes towards the end.
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Virginia Madsen.
Director: David O.Russell
Reviewer's last word: Jennifer Lawrence shines in this family drama about personal strength and perseverance.
Star profile: Robert De Niro
Quirky fact: Growing up in the Little Italy section of New York City, his nickname was Bobby Milk cause he was so thin and as pale as milk.
Best known for: Goodfellas, The Godfather: Part II, Meet the Parents.
If you like this movie you'll like these: Carol, The Danish Girl, American Hustle.
Quote: "I've never been one of those actors who has touted myself as a fascinating human being. I had to decide early on whether I was to be an actor or a personality."