David O. Russell has given us some really great movies. This fairy tale mop story is not one of them.
1. David O. Russell has really changed as a director during his 20 years in the business. He used to make black comedies like Spanking the Monkey, Flirting With Disaster, and Three Kings. He also made one of my favorite philosophical comedies, I Heart Huckabees.
2. But over the years, Russell has gotten softer. He's lost his edge. He gave us the schmaltzy Silver Linings Playbook, which should have been a warning sign, but I ignored it because he followed it up with American Hustle. But now he brings us Joy. And yes, that's irony.
3. It's not that Joy is bad, because it isn't. The cast is too talented to let the movie suck. But it's also not very good.
4. It's loosely (very loosely) based on Joy Mangano, the lady who invented the Miracle Mop.
5. Jennifer Lawrence plays Joy, an unhappy divorced mother who is breaking under the strain of her life and her unrealized dreams. In a desperate attempt to break free, she returns to her childhood love of inventing, and dreams up a mop that will wring itself.
6. Joy learns how to do business, and her plucky, never-say-die attitude is supposed to inspire us to never give up on our own dreams. Characters say things to her like "when you hide from others, you hide from yourself". Which makes no sense, but it's inspirational in that vague, don't-think-about-it way. And somebody says something about not letting practical reality get in the way. That idea is illustrated well by Joy - both the character and the movie.
7. The first half of the movie is predictable but not unpleasant. But the second half of the movie just runs off the rails. Even such legends as Robert De Niro and Isabella Rossellini can't sell the absurdity of the script, which becomes a runaway train of "WTF ?"
8. Russell said he created a role so that Bradley Cooper could be in another of his films. But that's exactly what Cooper's role feels like - it was added into the script just for him. His time on screen is brief and unnecessary.
9. This is an inspirational tale of the American Dream, showing us that any regular person can make it in this world, as long as they immediately become a business and legal expert.
In reality, that means the movie is silly, unrealistic, and ultimately disappointing.