“JOY” My rating: B
124 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
The rags-to-riches story, a key element of American mythology, usually concludes with dreams realized and a bright future ahead.
Leave it to David O. Russell and his perennial muse Jennifer Lawrence (they collaborated on “The Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle”) to poke around in the dark aftermath of dreams that come true.
“Joy” is inspired by the true story of Joy Mangano, a single mother who rose from poverty to multimillionaire after inventing the self-wringing Miracle Mop.
But Russell uses Mangano’s “inspirational” story as a launchpad for a mostly fictional comedy of dysfunction. Then he follows it up with a near-tragic look at how success brings its own set of difficulties.
Joy (Lawrence) has a spectacularly messed-up family. For starters this young woman is perennially flirting with financial and personal disaster. She works as a ticket clerk for a big airline, a gig that results in daily insults from the flying public. And she’s about to be laid off.
At home she must deal with two children and a slew of bizarre relations. Her ex husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez), who aspires to be the Latino Tom Jones, lives in the basement where he endlessly plans the big break that will never come.
Joy’s mother Terry (an almost unrecognizable Virginia Madsen) refuses to leave her bedroom and spends most waking hours watching the TV soap operas she has carefully videotaped. (A running gag finds real former soap stars like Susan Lucci and Donna Mills appearing in the absurdly awful shows to which Terry is addicted.)
Joy’s father Rudy (Robert DeNiro), operator of an auto repair shop and an Archie Bunker-ish racist, is once again on the romance market, his latest marriage having gone belly up. He is reduced to taking up an uneasy residence in Joy’s cellar with his former son-in-law.
Joy’s stepsister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm) has all sorts of sibling issues.
The only person in the house who seems halfway normal is Grandma Mimi (Diane Ladd), who has always predicted greatness for Joy and narrates the story — even from the grave.
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