'Joy' movie review: Vibrant J-Law saves unfocused, tonally inconsistent film
Writer-director David O. Russell's recent streak of undeniably great films -- "The Fighter," "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle -- ends with "Joy" (opening in theaters nationwide Dec. 25). Yet, this biopic - that is part dreamy drama and part ruthless business story - is still an entertaining journey ... despite several tonal and story missteps.
In short: Driven single mother of two children Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) risks everything to sell her invention - the Miracle Mop. Robert De Niro, Édgar Ramírez and Bradley Cooper co-star. (Watch the trailer)
"Joy" is a well-meaning but absolutely unfocused drama that begs the question: "what is this movie even about?" Theoretically, this is the story of Mangano's effort to sell one of her inventions -- which itself would have been a fun docudrama. The front half of the film is best described as "Shark Tank: The Movie," while the second half spirals out of control, resembling something closer to dysfunctional family business melodrama. Without a clear arc, "Joy" can only hope its audience blindly cheers for Mangano to do ... something ... sell some mops? Become a home shopping celeb? Take care of her family or finally get her eccentric family to work together?
At least Lawrence makes it easy to blindly root for Mangano. J-Law rises to the occasion, starring as a woman who reluctantly takes the mantle of family matriarch while her true ambitions lie in the business world. Lawrence is more than a match for the sheer family and business chaos that confronts Mangano on virtually every front. While this film may struggle with its tone and suffer a meandering story, at least it has Lawrence to keep "Joy" entertaining.
Final verdict: "Joy" features a solid performance from Lawrence. While it is an entertaining movie, "Joy" somehow also feels a bit underwhelming and just out of Russell's grasp.
"Joy" opens in theaters nationwide Dec. 25. This drama has a running time of 2 hours and is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.