Joy

For Bogart, it was his hands.

For Bette Davis, it was in her eyes.

Nobody covers the ground they walked on in any more determined way than Jennifer Lawrence, and in David O. Russell’s films Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, she’s been given ample opportunity to careen down corridors and sway across the lounge floor.

Joy is their latest collaboration, which also pairs Lawrence with Bradley Cooper as in those two other movies.

With a broken marriage that left her crooning former spouse living in her basement, an unstable bedridden mother residing on the main floor, and her retired dad with no place to go after her half-sister kicks him out, Joy Mangano (Lawrence) is at a crossroads – immobile, in stasis, with the weight of the world pressing down. And her family sees her as the problem.

Cutting her hand on broken glass while wringing out the mop, Joy rearranges the elements to create a new mop – a self-wringing mop – and in that moment, she lays the groundwork for a business that will not only change her life but the lives of millions worldwide. And for this, she’s resented, cheated, insulted, manipulated, blamed, punished and threatened with ruinous debt.

It’s as though Joy is expected to apologize for her intelligence, for having invented something that never existed before she thought of it. It’s not the physical manifestation of her mop that is protected by a patent, it’s the unauthorized use of her ideas that is secured. And yet, she’s pestered to share with those who envy her achievement and demand to be cut in for a chunk of the profits.

You hear this bullshit all the time. “The CEO makes too much, he should share it with the workers!” Oh yeah? Why should he?

If Joy fails, she suffers the loss. She still has to pay back her investors. With access to the unspeakable horror at the crossroad of “I know” and “they say,” there is nothing more terrifyingly contrite than finding your mind, the one that conceived of the product that built the business which in turn provides the jobs that pay for employees’ food, suddenly at the beck and call of the insidious impediments of a herd of starving cannibals who ignore your investment, the time it took or the economic judgments necessary to avoid bankruptcy.

Joy is without question a philosophical response to American Hustle, where economic power is distinguished from political power and pragmatic capitalism is exposed for what it is: cronyism! Robert De Niro as her dad and Isabella Rossellini as his girlfriend are the embodiment of pragmatism, blaming their every fear on Joy’s entrepreneurial energies. They expect a sure thing without any risks. Bradley Cooper programs the Home Shopping Network with the inventions of dreamers and fledgling Shark Tank hopefuls. He has a sixth sense for success but lacks the personal attachment to market these products properly.

The moocher, the plunderer, the second-hander, that’d be the sister who can only express her creativity with someone else’s creation.

This David O. Russell film should’ve been the third installment of Atlas Shrugged, because it represents the values and floor plan of laissez-faire free trade capitalism more effectively and with a better, more fluid cast.

I have yet to see a bad performance by Jennifer Lawrence. From Winter’s Bone through the Hunger Games series, she has established herself with eloquence, whether painted blue or living in The House at the End of the Street.

Maybe it’s as is said, “there are no good roles for women,” but in Joy, Jennifer Lawrence proves otherwise.

[PG-13]