Tag Archives: I Heart Huckabees

Joy

4 Jan

There was a time the anticipation of David O. Russell’s next project carried the excitement of a Christmas package. No matter what he had achieved before, he was always onto something new and radically different. His first films ranged from an angry, depraved coming-of-age tale (“Spanking the Monkey”) to a Desert Storm “Wild Bunch” of sorts (“Three Kings”) and a quirky little ditty that seemed stolen from the vault of Wes Anderson (“I Heart Huckabees”). After that, Russell spun up the reliably crafted “The Fighter,” a satiating and admirable effort but also something pat and conventional, and from there the cinematic pixie dust of unpredictability and quirk seemed gone. That’s not to say “American Hustle” and “Silver Linings Playbook” didn’t have their merits – they were exceptionally well acted (Oscar nods all around) and competently composed – but missing were those hidden pockets of wonderment among the rough edges.

122315i Joy“Joy” marks more of the same – not a bad thing, as it features the ever determined yet effervescent Jennifer Lawrence, back under Russell’s instruct for the third time. But even given Lawrence’s vast talents, is the invention of the Miracle Mop as worthy a fact-based feature as “The Fighter” and “American Hustle”? It’s all about scale. “The Fighter” was rooted in the hardscrabble world of boxing, opioid addiction and the tawdry cauldron of the struggling working class, while “Hustle” reveled in the cheesy polyester fashion and over-the-top personas of the late ’70s. Here, Lawrence is on her own to pull the yoke as the titular inventor of the now-famous mop, but oddly enough (copyright issues?) the name “Miracle Mop” never gets mentioned, though the real-life Joy Mangano does serve as an executive producer. One can only assume her endorsement.

The film follows your basic rags-to-riches arc with some interesting change-ups and Russell trying to knead in sardonic seeds of irony along the way. More interesting than the birth of that mop are the conditions we find Joy living under: a cramped Long Island house with her divorced parents (a stoic Robert DeNiro and a lurking Virginia Madsen, nothing short of excellent), her ex-husband (Édgar Ramírez), an aspiring lounge singer living in the basement, and their two children. The place is remarkably civil considering all the broken bonds and deserves greater examination, but Joy cuts her hand cleaning up a spilled drink and gets the bright idea for the house cleaning device. Continue reading