** SPOILERS **
There was little joy in Joy's life until she invented a mop. In Joy, writer-director David O. Russell's parable inspired by the women who were empowered to become successful to escape their dreary lives, Jennifer Lawrence plays the title character, an Eastern Airlines customer service rep burdened by unfulfilled dreams she hardly remembers and an atrocious family sucking the life out of her. Her father (Robert De Niro) is an apologetic loser dating a cruel-tongued shrew with money (Isabella Rossellini), her mother (Virginia Madsen) is a shut in addicted to soap operas, her vindictive half-sister (Elizabeth Rohm) plots against her, and her supportive ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) still lives in her basement. She does have two nice young kids. Joy is literally the mop cleaning up after her family's spilled lives. So one day, in a flash of genius, she invents a new and better self-cleaning mop, the Miracle Mop, and manages to get it on the burgeoning QVC network. Nothing is easy for Joy, and Joy puts Joy through the wringer, emotionally and in her business, always keeping Joy on the precipice of bankruptcy and failure.
Stylistically, Joy looks and feels like a muddled attempt at a Wes Anderson picture, with Joy's emotionally crippling family seeming like a blue collar, disagreeable Royal Tenenbaums. David O. Russell even shoots in a faux Wes Anderson-style, with fanciful voice overs and lots of mounted camera, straight-ahead shots of Joy and her rotten family. Business does pick up as Joy's business picks up, when Lawrence fully takes center stage (literally on QVC) and all but wills the Miracle Mop to be a million-seller on the network, thanks to the head of QVC played by a subdued, soft-spoken Bradley Cooper. Joy's screenplay puts Joy up a tree and throws rocks at her for two hours, until a too-pat solution finally saves Joy's business and rockets her to the incredible success she rightfully deserves. Joy is agreeably the Jennifer Lawrence Show, as, at the ripe old age of 25, she is once again tasked with playing a mother aging up to 15 years older than she is. It takes all of her magnetic movie star abilities to hold the screen against the trials and tribulations the movie, which feels like a warmed over Erin Brockovich, pits against her. But boy oh boy, does Joy have a horrible family; it would have been nice to see Joy beat De Niro, Rossellini, Madsen, and Rohm over their heads with a Miracle Mop.