Directed By: David O. Russell

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Édgar Ramírez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Dascha Polanco, and Bradley Cooper

Recurring actor-director collaborations happen fairly often.  We call the actors in these collaborations the directors' muses.  Alfred Hitchcock had James Stewart (and his blonds).  Martin Scorsese had Robert De Niro (and now Leonardo DiCaprio).  Steven Spielberg has Tom Hanks.  Quentin Tarantino has Samuel L. Jackson.  Christopher Nolan has Michael Caine.  These collaborations often produce great results on the big screen, as evidenced by the filmographies of all the aforementioned individuals.  These duos have a rhythm and understand each other's creative processes.  Still, no actor-director combo has a 100% success rate.  Just look to director David O. Russell and his muses Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro.  They started out on a high with the outstanding Silver Linings Playbook.  They followed this up with American Hustle, which was not on the same level as their first collaboration.  Now, they're serving up Miracle Mop biopic Joy, and I can assure you that the downward trend continues.  The group leaves a lot to be desired and a mess to clean up here.

Joy Mangano (Lawrence) is a doer, and her grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd) sees a great deal of potential in her to become the matriarch of the family.  Throughout Joy's youth (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp), Mimi encourages her by saying that she can be whatever she wants to be and do whatever she wants to do.  Fast forward to the present, and Joy's life is a mess.  Divorced from her ex-husband Tony Miranda (Édgar Ramírez), Joy works as a clerk at a local airport to support her family.  For whatever reason, she still allows Tony, who aspires to be the next Tom Jones, to live in the basement of her house working on his music.  Joy's mother Terry (Virginia Madsen), another divorcée, also lives there.  Terry is a recluse who spends her days stuck to her bed watching soap operas or clogging the sink with her hair.  An elderly Mimi also lives with Joy and the rest of her dysfunctional family.

Joy's life instantly becomes more complicated when her father Rudy (De Niro) is dumped by his current wife.  Moving into live with her, Joy sets him up in her basement alongside Tony.  The two share bad blood, and plenty of arguments ensue.  Things get somewhat better for Joy and her dysfunctional family, however, when Rudy meets a new woman, a wealthy widow by the name of Trudy (Isabella Rossellini).  While out on a boat with Rudy, Trudy, and the family, Joy ends up cleaning up spills from red wine with a mop.  While wringing this mop manually, she cuts her hands, and things get bloody.  As she patches herself up, an idea is born for a self-wringing mop.  She gets some crayons out to draw her plans, and a new business is born.  She will need some financial help from Trudy though, and her father includes her annoying half-sister Peggy (Elisabeth Röhm) in the venture because he believes she has “ideas”.  Soon, Joy will be answering the four questions of financial worthiness as she struggles to launch this now popular product.

This love fest amongst David O. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro needs to stop.  It simply needs to stop.  It's not producing strong results anymore.  This biopic on Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano is muddled, rushed, and chaotic.  Russell steps into the director's chair without a clear vision of how to pull this movie off, and it's abundantly clear.  Joy is laced with half-baked themes on family, business, innovation, and economic opportunity in America.  It boasts a jumbled narrative full of flashbacks and flash-forwards that very much interfere with the story at hand.  The performances from Russell's heavy-hitting ensemble, while decently entertaining, totally lack direction and character development.  All in all, Joy is a sloppy film that lacks cohesiveness in every sense of the word.

The performances are a bit aimless.  For her part as our titular character, Jennifer Lawrence doesn't exactly bring the hammer down.  There's no doubt that her performance is emotionally resonant as the struggling mother, daughter, and sister of the seriously dysfunctional Mangano family.  What's missing is a trajectory for her performance.  She doesn't really take her character anywhere throughout the film's two-hour runtime.  For his part as Trudy, Robert De Niro comes out swinging without a purpose.  Though it's always good to see De Niro when he's "on", there needs to be some buildup to this, and we're totally lacking it.  Virginia Madsen and Diane Ladd are totally underutilized for their parts as Joy's mother and grandmother respectively. Other supporting cast members don't bring that much to the table other than occasional humor or moral support for our leads.  All that being said, the performances are just another reflection of Russell’s failure to drive a more coherent creative vision.

just isn't the most joyous occasion at the box office this holiday season.  There's no quality, value, or convenience here.  If you dare, spiked eggnog will be needed to get through the film.  David O. Russell's latest feature gets a 0.09% rating.