I never expected to tear up over a story about a mop. Tear up a time or two I did, though, while watching the film JOY, which tells the tale of a mop and the woman who became a multimillionaire following the success of her Miracle Mop creation.
Going into the screening of JOY, I didn't know it was about a mop. Nor did I know it was based on the real-life success story of Miracle Mop creator Joy Mangano of QVC fame. The trailer didn't reveal either — or if it did, it went right over my head as I was simply dazzled and delighted at the prospect of a joy-filled holiday film featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Bradley Cooper.
Thing is, though there were brief moments that elicited tears to well in my eyes, JOY overall is not joyful. I'm glad I saw the movie, didn't regret the time spent watching. But I didn't love it. It wasn't at all what I expected. Admittedly I can't put my finger on what I expected; my missing the gist of the film from the trailer makes that obvious, I suppose.
What I enjoyed about JOY:
• Jennifer Lawrence. She always impresses me, ever since seeing her in WINTER'S BONE years ago. (Though I must admit, I'm not a fan of THE HUNGER GAMES movies, for no specific reason.) She played a pretty good Joy despite being far younger than the real Joy was at the time. Critics and reviewers far more film savvy than I thought so, too, as her many "best actress" nominations for the role prove.
• Joy's grandmother (Diane Ladd) had a prominent role in Joy's success because she believed in her, promoted her, encouraged her. As a grandma, that appealed to me.
• I enjoyed seeing Virginia Madsen (as Joy's wacked-out mom) and Isabella Rossellini (as Joy's dad's rich girlfriend). It's been a while since I've seen either in a film and I was glad to see they had roles in a big film. Their characters were unlike previous roles, which I found interesting — even though I didn't like either one of the characters.
• Edgar Ramirez, who plays Joy's ex-husband.
• Melissa Rivers' spot-on turn playing her mother, Joan Rivers.
• The soundtrack. Ella Fitzgerald. The Bee Gees. Nat King Cole. Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes). And more. Transcendent tunes.
• The honest depiction of dysfunctional families and sibling rivalry. People really do act like that to the ones they supposedly love. It stinks (and is loud and angry; see below), but it's true.
• The film serves as a reminder to never give up when you have a dream. If Joy Mangano can reach millionaire status because she didn't give up on her mop idea, it seems most folks can do the same, whatever their idea... if they don't give up. I needed that reminder.
What I didn't enjoy about JOY:
• Several scenes featuring Robert De Niro, who played Joy's father and who is an actor I almost always love watching, made me want to scream SHUT UP! The arguments with his ex-wife and his ex-son-in-law in particular. Sheesh! The bickering honestly hurt my head, his hateful remarks to others hurt my heart. Perhaps my reaction was because he and his scene mates accurately depicted interactions of dysfunctional families and I've heard enough of that in real scenes with my extended family. Whatever the reason, I hated the loudness and hatefulness of those scenes.
• Bradley Cooper's character could have been played by anyone, which made his appearance in the film seem a gratuitous nod to the Lawrence/DeNiro/Cooper trio — and kind of a cheap way to draw in viewers interested in seeing the three together again after SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.
• JOY is supposedly a comedy but it seemed more like a drama to me. There were funny parts, but being billed as a "comedy" is misleading.
• The lack of joy. No one was happy. Ever. Even success failed to create joy for Joy, it seemed. I hoped to come away feeling inspired and, well, joyful. Didn't happen.
Perhaps if one knows what to expect from the film, they'll give JOY higher marks than I did, perhaps enjoy it more than I did. So here's what you can expect: Expect some parts that make you smile, some that make you sad, some that hurt your heart, and others that hurt your ears. Expect a lot of reality and little — or no — joy from JOY. Other than that, it's a pretty good story and proof that great things can happen if you never give up.
And proof that Jennifer Lawrence can do a great job in a movie that's not as great as one might expect.
A brief featurette on the real Joy and realizing one's dreams:
JOY (rated PG-13 for "brief strong language") opened in theaters on Christmas Day 2015. Find out more on the film's official website.