Mopping up the family mess

Elisabeth Rohm, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro in a scene from “Joy.”
Elisabeth Rohm, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro in a scene from “Joy.” 20th Century Fox

What It’s About

Jennifer Lawrence always puts the extra in the ordinary, and in a role based on Joy Mangano, creator of the Miracle Mop, she’s sensational.

With its jolt of Vitamin J, “Joy” is an inspiring American Dream story honoring strong women and solid, long-term relationships of mutual respect.

Lawrence, who won an Oscar for another David O. Russell movie, “The Silver Linings Playbook,” is at her best as a struggling single mom, coping with a strange-but-somewhat true bizarre family situation.

Joy has been a dreamer since childhood, and as a harried head of household, invents a washable, reusable mop. She gets a shot at the fledgling shopping network QVC TV audience, and when she demonstrates it instead of a pitch spokesman, the product takes off.

But her business career is rife with setbacks, shady deals and family naysayers. With her gumption and belief in herself, she triumphs. Today, the real Joy is a multimillionaire with many patents to her name.

In the movie, she comes a long way, because she has a nutty family who passive-aggressively tries to hold her back.

“Joy” is along the vein of “Silver Linings Playbook,” “The Fighter” and “Flirting with Disaster” with its quirky, eccentric family, but it’s not on that same level. In a sense, it’s David O. Russell Lite.

However, the merits of the story will be a crowd-pleaser, and not for women only.


Russell has made several movies with Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper and Lawrence, and they obviously all work well together. Lawrence embodies his roles perfectly.

DeNiro plays the demanding, saboteur of a father who no longer is married to Joy’s Mom (Virginia Madsen), an agoraphobic recluse who stays in her bedroom watching soap operas all day. He starts dating Isabella Rosellini, a wealthy widow who becomes meddlesome in Joy’s personal and professional life.

Although he is only in a few scenes, Cooper and Lawrence have a chemistry together that you can feel. He plays the QVC boss Neil Walker, and his belief in Joy puts her life on another path.

Another man who believes in Joy is an unlikely ally, her ex-husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez), who lives in her basement and still has dreams of becoming a pop singer. Ramirez is appealing as her loyal wingman.

Elisabeth Rohm plays her envious half-sister, and it’s a sour role. A sweet turn by Diane Ladd as Joy’s grandma helps put the overwhelming chaos of Joy’s life in perspective.

What Works

Russell frames the time periods in spoofs of soap operas popular in that era, with soap divas Susan Lucci and Donna Mills playing flamboyant drama queens. It’s an imaginative touch, as is casting Melissa Rivers as her late mother Joan, one of the early stars of cable shopping channels.

What Doesn’t Work

The cast is first-rate, but the family bickering gets tedious, and consumes much of the movie.

After a David O. Russell movie, you are often thankful for the family you were born into, because no matter what, it’s usually less screwed up than what Russell depicts.



  • Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Dianne Ladd, Edgar Ramirez, Virginia Madsen, Bradley Cooper, Elisabeth Rohm, and Isabella Rosellini.
  • Director: David O. Russell
  • Rated PG-13 (brief strong language)
  • 124 minutes