Here at Screen Goblin HQ, we’ve come up with a number of inventions. For example, the savoury ice cream (instant mash with a sausage for a flake, ketchup for strawberry sauce and a potato waffle for a wafer). Or the totally opaque 3D glasses, which provide the most enjoyable viewing experience possible for watching Michael Bay movies. We’ve yet to be approached by any retailers or filmmakers, unlike Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence), the inventor of the self-wringing mop, and subject of this Oscarnated drama by David O. Russell. Yes, it’s a film about Jennifer Lawrence inventing a mop. And yes, I watched it on a plane with severely limited movie options.
Joy is one of those titles, like Sinister or Gravity, that is wholly inappropriate to the content of the film. When Joy isn’t mopping, she’s moping, and that’s all that happens for 2 hours. First she mopes, then she mops, then rinse and repeat ad nauseam (although that may have been the aeroplane food). The film has to keep contriving reasons for Joy to joylessly mop things, from spilt red wine to sticky yoghurt mess, like Cinderella in a porn film. Her mopiphany comes after she cuts her hands open by mopping up broken glass and wringing it out by hand, at which point the film turns into one of those hilarious American infomercials. “Are you tired of this happening to you?” No, and frankly, if it has, you don’t need a self-wringing mop; you need a lobotomy.
That brings us neatly to Robert De Niro, who’s really the only person who walks away unscathed, though that’s probably more to do with the Dirty Grandpa star’s tragically diminished dignity than any effort on his part. Russell is now the only director willing to put De Niro in films that might actually be screened for film critics, and here he directs with a stilted style presumably designed to mirror the soap opera clips that pepper the movie. And as anyone with bad posture will tell you, being arch can be a real pain in the neck.
This being an edited-for-aeroplane version, it’s possible that they cut out all the bits explaining why I should give a fuck. They might as well have made a film about the man who invented the Sticky Buddy™. The film applauds Joy’s series of seriously ill-advised business decisions, including taking out a second mortgage on her family home, because she proves that with enough hard work, any American can get rich in a jif. Or is it Cif? Her journey might be summed up by the motto Veni, vidi, squeegee; I came, I saw, I made a fortune flogging a product no one needs on QVC, a TV shopping channel whose business model is based on fleecing gullible elderly people. This is a film designed to celebrate the magic of teleshopping. I just hope that mop comes with a bucket.
Speaking of fleecing gullible elderly people, the Academy were successfully duped into nominating Lawrence for her abysmal performance. Mind you, the following year they nominated another risible Lawrence vehicle, Passengers. It was only for music, but you know what they say: shit sticks. The distributors (20th Century Fox, whose former boss happened to launch QVC) attempted a similar con on the general public, by producing a trailer that made no reference to mops or mopping. The movie even includes an incongruous scene in which Joy wields a gun, purely for the benefit of the trailer, to trick viewers into thinking something actually happens.
Between lines of dialogue like “I have been mopping for most of my life” and “talk about the mop!”, Joy and her self-wringing mop gave me a self-wringing neck. Russell wrings every last cliché from the laughably inane premise, whether it’s the bit where Joy hacks off her hair with scissors (lazy cinematic shorthand for “watch out, now she really means business”), or banal scenes of teleshopping accompanied by stirring music, while Bradley Cooper shouts “We’re getting calls! We’re getting calls!” I’ve long imagined hell to resemble an endless QVC broadcast, but now my infernal vision also includes everyone involved in this insipid project. They really ought to mop it up, before someone treads in it.