Joy (2015) is anything but a joyous story nor does it tell the audience where to find real joy. In fact, if I were going to chart the plot progression it would look something like this:
I don’t want to spoil the plot since the movie came out only a week ago, but you should just know that this movie is not about a woman who finds joy. She is simply called Joy. She starts in the dumps with a dumpy job, a needy (and kooky) family, and an ex-husband living in her basement. Then she gets and idea but things just keep going down-hill in her endeavors to get the idea anywhere. Then she gets a break for a very brief moment, only to get shot down again. She falls farther and farther until she finally picks herself up, demands respect, uncovers fraud, and skyrockets into success. It leaves the movie with a happy feeling, but you’re unsure whether it will remain happy or she’ll plummet again. It’s definitely happiness that it ends on not joy because joy is enduring despite the circumstances.
Surprisingly, though, I appreciated the thoughtfulness of the story, even though I couldn’t predict what was going to happen next. The entire movie I tried to figure out what the meaning behind it was because it just seemed that she kept trying and kept meeting huge metal walls which had brick and every other substance that is tremendously difficult to break through when you don’t have enough money to buy a hammer much less a wrecking crane. The movie seems to be saying that with hard work, determination, and the faith of at least one other person, a person can accomplish her dreams. And never give up. I left the theater with a skip in my step feeling like a could conquer the world. (It’s a good thing I have cruise control on my car or who knows how fast I would have sped home.) That emotional high was only an emotional high though. Just like happiness, it won’t last unless it’s backed by something outside of myself.
The major aspect missing from this movie was Jesus. As my good friend said, “I just kept waiting for Jesus to show up.” If Joy had shown a little faith in anyone but herself, it would have made for a very powerful story. I know that God can work the kind of miracles portrayed on that screen. All of the opportunities Joy received were orchestrated by God; she just didn’t realize it. Even though her family downed on her most of the time, God was always on her side. The “God figure” in the movie was her Mimi who kept telling her that she was made to create great things. The writers messed up when they killed off the Mimi character though and left Joy to believe that she and she herself had created her empire.
I appreciated the empowerment the movie was trying to create, but character-wise, it was a bit flat. Joy was determined and forceful. The daughter always believed in her. The half-sister whom I thought was her comrade in the childhood scenes grew up to be her nemesis of sorts. Her father was a people-pleaser. Her mother was lazy and a bit unrealistic. Her ex-husband oddly stuck with her. A character I wish had been explored more deeply was her best friend. If it wasn’t going to be about a faith in God, it could have been a great best friend movie, but the best friend shows up once in the middle of the night, they reminisce, and then she speaks up a few other times. Her real shining moment is when she makes the phone call on the show, but other than that the producers don’t play into that potentially powerful plot point. I guess they just wanted to maintain the idea that Joy does it all herself.
It’s a movie that left me with an emotional high, but it’s not one that I will probably rave about and want to watch again and again in order to feel inspired. The reason I would watch it again was to view it more critically as a piece of art rather than a story.
The good thing is though that it reminded me where my real joy lies–in God. I came home and as I was getting ready to write this I saw a verse on my wall that I’ve been memorizing. It says, “faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). This faith is not a faith in one’s own abilities but a faith in God’s power and ability. I know this because the chapter goes on to reference several people throughout history who had faith in God and were successful. That’s my suggestion if you want to watch this movie. Remember that joy comes from having faith in God who gives strength to those who believe.