JLaw’s exceptional performance refocuses flawed production
Jennifer Lawrence’s latest starrer, “Joy,” is an instructive viewing experience, because it “teaches” us how an exceptional lead performance can “refocus” an otherwise flawed production.
It’s worth the extra attention and scrutiny, because the protagonist in “Joy” provides a realistic role model for first-time entrepreneurs and inventors, and shows them how to survive in the ruthless and devious business world.
Based on Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano’s “survival” story, “Joy” holds together well for the first half of its storytelling. It showed how Joy was an exceptionally promising child who graduated valedictorian from high school, but “fell apart” later in life, due to a number of negative experiences and people she was too weak to fight off.
The naysayers in her life included a mother who ran away from reality, seeking cold comfort in the lives of TV soap opera characters, and a husband who turned out to be more of a hindrance than a helpmeet.
Thank goodness, Joy finally came to her senses and realized that she had to save herself by inventing the first mop that wrung itself without having to be unsanitarily held.
Trouble was, she knew nothing about marketing her invention, so she made big mistakes that are dramatized in instructive detail in the film, making it cautionary viewing for all creative women (and men) who want and need to benefit from their own promising inventions.
Lawrence makes her character so real and accessible that those lessons are clearly communicated and felt by viewers. Trouble is, in the film’s second half, some plot twists and other developments are presented in such an awkward or “forcing-through” way that viewers feel that they’re being technically manipulated for effect, instead of the film naturally earning their empathy.
The questionable scenes are set in the “dog-eat-dog” business world, which initially defeats our protagonist—until she learns to fight back, using her guts and inherent moral superiority.
Her triumphs are flawed, because they’re too handily achieved, like her final victory over an old businessman who unexpectedly capitulates and gives her everything she wants because she’s so feistily noble and right.
These less-than-fully-earned triumphs detract from the film’s believability and empathy, especially toward the end. Pluckily enough, however, Lawrence’s portrayal stays firmly focused, despite the lack of support from the production’s script and direction.
Other key portrayals, like Robert de Niro’s characterization of Joy’s father as a weakling and weasel, add to the clarity and focus, but it’s Lawrence who has the heaviest thespic burden to bear, and she manages to do so—splendidly.