“Joy” the movie: Predictable at times, heartwarming nonetheless

image from Joy the movie

I was pleasantly surprised by the film “Joy.” I was invited to see the film by a friend and had nothing else to do that evening so I went.

I hadn’t seen Jennifer Lawrence in anything besides the Hunger Games so it was hard to get used to her playing a blonde. Once the novelty wore off it was easy to get wrapped up in the story.

The film is set in New York in the late ‘80s. Lawrence plays Joy, a divorced mother of two who lives in the house she grew up in with most of her family. She cares for her mother and grandmother and her ex-husband lives in the basement while trying to kick off his career as a singer. The movie used both flash-backs and flash-forwards to give context to pivotal scenes, and was narrated by Joy’s grandmother.

Joy is shown to be a creative type, with scenes of her as a child showing her making paper villages and forests and using them to act out stories. Later on in the film, she gripes to her mother about not getting a patent for a dog collar she invented as a teenager. Joy never continued her education after high school and works as a clerk at an airport until she’s fired for being late after having to solve a family crisis at home. In this way, Joy is shown to still have the inventive traits she did as a child. Her living situation is a mess, with people of all generations living in too small of a space in an old home that is in need of repairs which she does herself amidst the bustle of the rest of the home.

After a particularly messy experience, Joy gets an idea for a new invention. A mop, one that is lightweight, more absorbent, self-wringing and overall more convenient than conventional mops. She gets business advice and financial support from her father, owner of an auto body shop, and his girlfriend, a rich widow, but spearheads the planning, production, decision making and marketing herself.

In a way, Joy’s situation seems like a 1980s Cinderella story. Joy’s mother is alive but spends all her time in bed watching soap operas and is more of a burden to Joy than any help around the house. Instead of step sisters, Joy has a half-sister who aims to sabotage her efforts at every turn. Instead of dressing up for a ball, Joy is primped and styled to sell her product on QVC in front of millions of viewers. Joy doesn’t lose a glass slipper but she loses her faith in her abilities, in her product and in herself, several times over.

I’d recommend “Joy” to people who want a heartwarming film that balances humor, tragedy and inspiration. The ending is predictable but the turns of events that lead up to it make it satisfying rather than disappointing. It manages to pack scenes depicting slices of life along with dramatic themes without making either seem out of place. The narrative overall makes for a sweet, genuine story that I wouldn’t mind seeing again.