By Sally Orwin Lee Joy (12)
The history of cinema is a litany of stories about the underdog. From Shane to Jerry Maguire, Rocky to Mulan, Chaplin’s Tramp to Forrest Gump it seems we like nothing better than to root for a loser. American cinema in particular has it written into its DNA, born out of a land conquered by the true grit of the pioneer spirit. Every underdog film can be read as replaying this birth of the nation in microcosm. ‘Joy’ is the name of the lead character, but it is also the time-honoured response to an American dream realised.
So it begins. ’Everyone starts out with a dream of what life will be’, says Joy’s grandmother early in the film. We watch her precocious granddaughter playing with pristine paper cutouts, her best friend Jackie watching on, quietly weeping as she is transfixed by the story Joy weaves. ‘Joy was one of those people that rejoiced in making things’. She is an inventor. She is a doer. Yet by her early 30s she is trapped.
As Joy struggles to bring order to a chaotic existence, we quickly recognise those who have been deadweights on her paper dreams. The men of the house repeatedly fail her and four generations of strong women watch on passively, all under one roof, Joy also has two young children of her own, but it’s clear she has to mother the whole household. She possesses a creative force stifled by the fantasists around her who each in their different ways evade reality – and responsibility…
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