A closer look at… Joy

© 20th Century Fox, 2016.
© 20th Century Fox, 2016.

Joy is rated 12 for infrequent strong language

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop –  Though not as riotously entertaining as David O. Russel’s best work, Joy nevertheless provides a great showcase for Jennifer Lawrence as a truly inspirational woman.

Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) was a creative, vivacious, high-achieving child. But somewhere along the line, life stole her spark. Her parents’ divorce, a failed marriage to Tony (Edgar Ramirez), caring for two children, trying to hold down a job, and managing the chaos that her mother (Virginia Madsen), father (Robert De Niro) and half-sister (Elisabeth Rohm) throw her way, have all caused Joy to sideline her own dreams.

Her grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd) is determined to see Joy rise and take her place as matriarch and provider for the family. And when Joy hits on an ingenious design for a self-wringing mop, it could be the key to unleashing her buried potential.

Our Take

In terms of subject matter alone, we need more films like Joy. I am prepared to forgive this film a great deal simply for its big, loud, upfront focus on women’s stories – not only charting the real-life rise of mop millionairess Joy Mangano, but making space for her daughter, mother, grandmother, sister and best friend. At its heart this is a tale about an ordinary woman discovering her own potential and going on to inspire others.

Jennifer Lawrence is reliably charismatic in the title role (and Ramirez, in particular, excellent in support), but the film as a whole falls short of director David O. Russell’s best work, owing to some clunky dialogue and a meandering final act. There’s also the fact that a Hollywood-style rags to riches story, told as unquestioningly as this, tends to make me uncomfortable. Who says that the Capitalist fairytale awaits anyone who dreams big enough and works hard enough? What about all those hardworking dreamers who didn’t make it?

You may or may not come out of Joy feeling uplifted. I can certainly guarantee that you’ll leave the cinema possessed of a burning desire to buy a new mop.

01-jennifer-lawrence-as-joy
© 20th Century Fox, 2016.

Dig Deeper

  • Did you enjoy the film, and why or why not? How does it compare with Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell’s previous collaborations, Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013)? What themes, and what kind of characters, seem to interest Russel?
  • What did you make of Lawrence’s performance as the title character? What qualities does she bring to the role, and why do you think she is so popular both as an actress and as a personality?
  • Why do you think the filmmakers chose to have the story narrated by Joy’s grandmother Mimi? Do you think this was a good creative choice, and why or why not?
  • How would you describe Joy’s family, and could you relate to any of their quirks and foibles? To what extent do they limit Joy, and to what extent do they ultimately support and inspire her?

I don’t want to end up like my family. – Joy

  • To what extent could you relate to Joy’s struggles throughout the film? How universal is her sense of frustration, regret and wasted potential?
  • A title card says that Joy is ‘inspired by the true stories of daring women’. What specific barriers do women face when it comes to achieving their dreams? What other stories about daring women are you particularly inspired by?

I don’t need a prince. – Joy

  • Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) says that ‘in America, the ordinary meets the extraordinary every day’. What version of the American Dream is presented in Joy, and is this dream critiqued or celebrated? How did you react to Joy’s happy ending?
  • What factors determine whether someone is able to achieve their dreams? In your view, can anyone succeed through hard work and perseverance? Have you mainly experienced life as a giver of opportunities, or a destroyer?

The world does not give you opportunities. The world destroys opportunities. – Joy

  • What does Joy have to say about the potential of ordinary people? How might the world be different if more people were able to fulfill their potential? What could each of us do to help this happen?
© 20th Century Fox, 2016.
© 20th Century Fox, 2016.

Read More

Why Is the True Story of David O. Russell’s Joy Such a Mystery?

David O Russell: ‘I relate to Joy – she manages a lot of commerce that is unforgiving and nasty’

Jennifer Lawrence Talks Joy Inspiration and How Katniss Would Spearhead Her Squad

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Sophie Lister

Damaris resources bring films to new audiences, start conversations, and enrich lives. Find out more at www.damarismedia.com Here at the Damaris Film Blog, we publish regular discussion guides to help you make the most of the latest cinema releases.