Joy’ makes for a clever but uneven biopic

Jennifer Lawrence in Joy.

Three and a half stars

Joy Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez. Directed by David O. Russell. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.

Joy, David O. Russell’s biopic about inventor Joy Mangano, begins not with her childhood or her first invention or a similarly recognizable starting point for a biography, but with a surreal scene out of a sort of fun-house version of a soap opera, starring soap-opera queen Susan Lucci herself. It immediately announces the movie as an off-kilter take on true events, much like Russell’s American Hustle, even if it then gets right to depicting Mangano’s childhood and her first invention.

The tension between the fanciful and the mundane never quite resolves over the course of the movie, and Joy is less successful when it focuses on laying out the facts of Mangano’s career. Jennifer Lawrence plays Mangano with her typical grit, which the divorced mother of two must summon in order to deal with her needy, undermining family (led by Robert De Niro as Mangano’s casually sexist father). Like American Hustle, Joy has a jazzy energy as it barrels through some unlikely events, including Mangano’s rise to fame as an early star of QVC. The movie is less assured when dealing with how her career progresses from there, and the final act is an awkward, rushed summary of Mangano’s later success. Reality only gets in the way of Russell’s dynamic filmmaking.


Josh Bell

Josh Bell is the film editor for Las Vegas Weekly, where he's been writing movie and TV reviews since 2002. ...

Get more Josh Bell
  • This year’s event features another packed lineup of short films, with more than 120 selections spread over 20-plus thematic programs and four days.

  • The three-day event—which will showcase more than 50 short films, along with one feature—kicks off with a free night of films at Backstage Bar and ...

  • Returning to the Palms, LVFF 2018 offers talked-about indie films shorts programs, animation, student films, parties and more.

  • Get More Film Stories
Top of Story