David O. Russell, the director that brought you Silver Linings Playbook, returns with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro for Joy. The film follows the mundane life of a housewife and the crippling realities that she faces. Lawrence portrays Joy Mangano, the real-life entrepreneur that invented the Miracle Mop. As a divorced mother of two, Joy must wade through the difficult waters of family and business in order to become the powerful woman that her grandmother had always envisioned.
Minor spoilers ahead…
All in all, Joy focuses on the strength of women and ties in some powerful feminist ideals. The notion of Joy’s “secret power” is threaded throughout the film and is beautifully captured in the dialogue between a young Joy and her sister. In a scene with her handmade paper castle and kingdom, Joy is confronted with one missing element: a prince. However, the young Joy simply disassociates herself from the idea of needing a prince and that is her “secret power.” Throughout the film, it is evident that Joy is more than capable of caring for herself and her family, without the need of a husband. However, the film also portrays the realities presented to the women of the time.
At times depicted as a background object, Joy is sidelined when matters of substance are brought up. Even in matters that deal with her, she is given no voice of her own and she is forced to have others speak on her behalf. The lack of voice is also reinforced in her mother’s life, who wastes her life away in her bedroom and watches soap operas. At one point, Joy even dreams that her life is a soap opera, which further depicts her lack of agency in the real world. The recurring image of her mother watching television is a testament to the role of women at the time. This changes as Joy begins to pursue business ventures.
Joy’s inventiveness is shown from a very early age, even from her handmade paper castle. The innocence of her creation is quickly dashed by the harsh reality of her parents’ divorce. A loss of innocence is another theme presented in Joy; over and over again, the innocence of her endeavors is thwarted by the men in her life. Joy is constantly presented with oppressive men that see nothing more than a mediocre housewife, and it is her goal to inevitably surmount the obstacles that stand in her way. The dynamics of film create connections in which the audience is “in” on Joy’s emotions, whether that is happiness, frustration, or triumph.
I wasn’t expecting much out of Joy, but I was pleasantly surprised by its relevance and dynamism. The film doesn’t lack in great performances, as Lawrence is accompanied by Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Dascha Polanco, and more. Check out Joy in theaters this Christmas.