Back to IndieWire

Jennifer Lawrence Carries Rollicking Biopic ‘Joy’ (Review & Roundup)

Jennifer Lawrence Carries Rollicking Biopic 'Joy' (Review & Roundup)


Ever idiosyncratic, David O. Russell assembled his usual trio of Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro to headline rollicking biopic “Joy,” loosely based on the true story of mop inventor/pitch woman Joy Mangano. Lawrence ably carries Russell’s first film with an everywoman protagonist at its center who is not crazy.

READ MORE: “‘Joy’ Marks a Reunion, Breaks New Ground for Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper and David O. Russell (Q&A)” 

We follow driven Mangano from 10 to 43, sharing her daydreams and nightmares before and after she achieves success. She’s an imperturbable Long Island single mom entrepreneur with the capacity to persevere against her chaotic, undermining family, especially her father (Robert De Niro). Russell merges Joy’s fantasies with those of her mother (Virginia Madsen), who is obsessed with daytime soap operas, her supportive Latin husband (Edgar Ramirez), and the wizard of Emerald City—Lancaster, Penn.—(Bradley Cooper), who finally gives Mangano her chance to shine on QVC. It’s fun to follow this woman who has the smarts to figure out how to pull herself up and buck the assumption that working class moms can’t win.

Luckily for Fox, while mixed reviews may impact the Oscar race (where Lawrence is the only likely nominee), they shouldn’t impede the box office, as this entertaining movie is the only major studio Christmas release aimed at the starving female demographic— who adore Lawrence.

READ MORE: “Fox Juggles Multiple Oscar Contenders from Different Labels”

Read other reviews of “Joy” from around the web below.

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

“If the title ‘American Hustle’ weren’t already
applied to another David O. Russell movie, it could easily work for ‘Joy,’ which plays like the less memorable B-side to that earlier
effort… Russell has never been America’s most daring filmmaker, but he has
constantly refashioned classic formulas with a jubilant ironic tone to
brilliant effect. ‘Joy,’ by contrast, has been clobbered by
sincerity, even as it often feels as though Russell had to grit his teeth to
maintain the good-natured vibe.”

Justin Chang, Variety:

“If a ‘Eureka!’ moment in the history of the household
cleaning industry seems a less-than-intuitive premise for a mainstream feature
film, rest assured that Russell has stretched this heavily fictionalized
material about as far as it could go, though he stops well short of the
screwball delirium and emotional liftoff he achieved in his recent string of
triumphs. Despite another solid performance from Jennifer Lawrence, anchoring
Russell’s sincerely felt tribute to the power of a woman’s resolve in a man’s
world, it’s hard not to wish ‘Joy’ were better — that its various winsome parts
added up to more than a flyweight product that still feels stuck in the development
stage.”

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter:

“When a film runs through four credited editors, it’s usually
a sign that something’s amiss, be it in pacing, narrative coherence, tonal
control and/or balance among diverse elements. All of these issues apply here,
but the combined energy, determination and talent of Russell and his actors
blast through the underbrush of unlikely plotting, far-fetched coincidence and
abrupt personality about-faces to keep the audience on the high road of willing
disbelief that all this could be happening (it is based on a true story).”

David Edelstein, New York Magazine:
“Watching Lawrence trip over one obstacle after another and pick herself back up reminds you why she’s such a marvelous comic and dramatic actress: She can illuminate the struggle, amid chaos, to cultivate an inner stillness. This makes her the perfect muse for Russell, a director famous for flying off the handle and then ostentatiously meditating — a Buddha with a hair trigger. It’s his life quest to find the signal in the noise, but, fortunately for us, the noise holds its own.”

Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly:
“If only Russell trusted Mangano’s true story. Instead, he’s turned her life into a over-staged mess of awkward exposition, contrived dialogue, and characters so willfully unreal they feel acrylic. Lawrence is, once again, ridiculously young for the role (Mangano was nearly a decade older at the time) but also much better and more natural than the noteless part she’s forced to play. She can’t save a turkey though; in a season rich with cinematic options—’Star Wars,’ ‘Sisters,’ ‘The Revenant’—this is not the joy you’re looking for.”

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap:

“Russell hopes for a Jennifer Lawrence hat trick with ‘Joy,’ but unfortunately, this time his delicate balloon pops. It’s a movie about a
harried single mother rediscovering her creativity, and about the birth of QVC
as the ultimate melding of retail and show biz, and about one brave person’s
fight not to be exploited by the world of commerce, but Russell (who shares
story credit with ‘Bridesmaids’ co-writer Annie Mumolo) doesn’t quite figure
out how to tell these stories concurrently, or even consecutively, resulting in
a pile-up of characters and incidents and emotions that never satisfyingly coheres.”

This Article is related to: Reviews and tagged , , , , , ,