What do you do when you’re a single mom caring for two kids, your divorced mother and father, your ex-husband, and your grandmother? Well, if you’re Joy, you invent a new product and blow 1980s stereotypes out of the water.
In David Russell’s biopic Joy, Jennifer Lawrence plays the titular role of a woman struggling to make it in a man’s world. Sounds cliché, but Jennifer’s nuanced performance brings a depth to the story that other actors might not be able to pull off. Her Joy is tough, tenacious, and tired of living a life where she barely makes ends meet in a dead-end job.
Narrated by the character of Joy’s grandmother, Joy opens with the telling of Joy’s early life as a little kid with a big brain. Plagued by a jealous half-sister, a mother with a soap opera addiction, and a father’s failing business, Joy faces challenges that would make any man cringe. She finds herself taking on the roles of mother, daughter, stewardess, maid, bookkeeper, plumber…the list goes on, and Lawrence plays the harried divorcee with such perfection that you forget that she herself is neither a mother nor divorced.
The film takes us through Joy’s life as she dreams of a day when one of her inventions is finally recognized as the spark of genius that it is. She is hampered by a mother who is more concerned with TV shows than her own daughter and a woeful lack of resources necessary for bringing her brilliance to fruition.
Enter Dad, played by Robert De Niro. Dad unwittingly provides Lawrence’s Joy with the opportunity of a lifetime when he makes a love connection with a wealthy widow, and Joy pounces on that opportunity like a lioness pouncing on a gazelle. She pitches her latest brainchild to her father’s new squeeze and blows the woman away with her fierce drive and determination. The road to success is far from smooth, and to say that it is paved with shards of glass would be the understatement of the century.
Throughout the film Jennifer Lawrence bombards you with a blitzkrieg of emotions and blows you away with her range and depth. She plays downtrodden Joy with such ease that you forget she’s acting. Exasperation, anger, devastation, resolution, passion–Lawrence conveys a wide spectrum of emotion as she throws herself into another perfect performance.
Make sure there’s plenty of room on that mantel for your next Oscar, Jennifer; you’re going to need it!