Why are these reviews so terrible? my best friend and I wondered as we lined up to buy tickets to see Joy. I'd fallen in love with the previews -- particularly the choral version of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" -- and as a budding entrepreneur, I couldn't wait to find out a little more about someone who had proven that a young woman with little experience but a whole lot of chutzpah could build a business that better served her (mostly female) customers than any other male-dominated enterprise on the market.
And it did that. I loved Joy. I loved how Joy never gives up on her dreams, how she develops a cleaning product based on her experiences of cleaning her own home (and sells it to consumers with lives that mirror hers!), how she utilizes all of the resources available to her to build a better life for herself and her family. And I was baffled about all of those disappointed reviews.
The reviews criticize the movie as all-over-the-place, trite, too obsessed with Joy's character, overly quirky. There isn't enough romance in the film. Jennifer Lawrence is too young to be believable.
But the real kicker are the reviews comparing Joy to a modern-day Cinderella. And the moment someone sets up that expectation, there's no saving the movie for them.
Perhaps the first part of Joy could be similar to Cinderella: What holds Joy back is not her lack of a work ethic or talent or kindness, it's her family. The chaos and the misery and the demands of her home life make it seem nearly impossible that she could fulfill her dreams. She seems trapped in an endless cycle of cleaning up her family's messes, both physical and emotional. But as a result of her own resourcefulness and against all odds, she somehow transforms those disadvantages into the power to bring her own brilliant product to market and sell it just as QVC is gaining ground. Joy is a visionary. And her story is far from the passive experience of Cinderella, who transcends her challenges with the help of a fairy godmother and a prince and a glass slipper. Joy is active. Joy creates her future, and by doing so gives permission for other like-minded women to live their own dreams.
Just because she's mopping floors doesn't make her a damsel in distress.