Joy

 photo joy_zpsft2v08cz.jpg photo starrating-4andahalfstars.jpgThe Joy of the title is Joy Mangano. For those unfamiliar, she is an American inventor who created the Miracle Mop – a plastic implement “with a head made from a continuous loop of 300 feet of cotton that can be easily wrung out without getting the user’s hands wet.” Although a modest succes initially, it wasn’t until the entrepreneur appeared on shopping channel QVC in 1992, that the invention actually took off. Although Joy is based on a real woman, this isn’t some straightforward, by the numbers biopic. What David O. Russell has done with the saga of Joy Mangano is a visionary appropriation of the facts. The director has creatively imagined Joy Mangano’s memoir as a modern day fantasy.

Fairy tales do come true. Jennifer Lawrence is surrounded by a colorful ensemble that supports her narrative to comical effect. They almost compel her to rise above the depths of her existence. There’s never any suggestion that her family members don’t love each other. However the menagerie of eccentrics that comprise her family are, hmmm shall we say, a little dysfunctional? As the matriarch of a multi-generational household, her environment is constantly in a state of disarray.  Joy is a divorced mother with two small children. Her mother (Virginia Madsen) is obsessed with this soap opera and never leaves her bed. An amusing aside is that the daytime serial she’s watching is a fictitious send-up. It features newly shot scenes starring icons of the medium, including Susan Lucci, Donna Mills, Laura Wright and Maurice Benard.  It pops up throughout the years hilariously marking the time period.

As in any fable, there are many obstacles to overcome. Her father, and mother’s ex-husband, Rudy (Robert De Niro) comes over to live in her basement after he has broken up with his girlfriend. Complicating matters is the fact that Tony (Edgar Ramírez), Joy’s ex-husband, is already living down there and has for the past two years. He’s trying to jump start his stalled lounge singing career. Isabella Rossellini later emerges as Trudi, Rudy’s new girlfriend who becomes the chief financial backer for Joy’s innovative idea. Do I see a ray of light? There’s also Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), who runs the QVC shopping network. He’s sort of the male version of a fairy godmother in her life. Joy’s jealous half-sister Peggy (Elizabeth Rohm) is a negative presence, but her longtime childhood friend Jackie (Dascha Polanco) is a positive one. Diane Ladd is Mimi, Joy’s supportive grandmother and the narrator of this fable.

Truth is stranger than fiction. David O. Russell has brilliantly distilled the elaborate narrative to its essence, trimming away the excess fat of unimportant details and highlighted the bonkers mentality of her life. The director has recontextualized the very true story of Joy Mangano into that of a contemporary fairy tale. Like some Cinderella scrubbing up a spill on the floor, she gets cut after wringing out a mop. Her hands bleed from the shards of glass. Inspiration strikes without a hint of cynicism. Joy isn’t some woman waiting for her prince charming . She improves the very mire of her own existence with her entrepreneurial enthusiasm. The chronicle demands that we reconsider how inspirational fantasies from the likes of the Brothers Grimm, are still happening today. The hard working resolve of a single mother with a dream manifested as a glorious paean to female empowerment.

David O. Russell has found his muse. As Katharine Hepburn was to George Cukor or Marlene Dietrich was to Josef von Sternberg, so too is Jennifer Lawrence to David O. Russell. This is his 3rd picture to feature Jennifer Lawrence but the first to star her — or any woman for that matter — as the sole lead in one of his movies. The partnership has yielded yet another fruitful collaboration for all involved. In an era where we routinely bemoan the derth of strong roles for women, Joy quietly enters the discussion and gives us exactly that. It’s a real tribute to the scrappy heroines of the 1940s when female-centric films were common. Think pictures starring Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck or Joan Crawford. Yes those are indeed lofty comparisons but Jennifer Lawrence embodies the fierce spirit of those trailblazing heroines. What’s old seems new again. She’s an uplifting breath of fresh air. A woman with her eyes firmly set on the American dream. This is a defining role where she comes in not aggressively “with a bow and arrow,” as the director has noted, “but with her heart and soul.”

12-03-15

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18 Responses to “Joy”

  1. I’ll certainly have to add this to my must see before year end list. Thanks for the aces-up review.

    Grace Kelly- Aldfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen -Diane Keaton, and Zhang Yimou-Gong Li can round out your list of primo collaborations.

    • Those are good associations. You could add Woody Allen and Mia Farrow to that list as well.

      I feel like Alfred Hitchcock had many muses. If you’re counting the # of movies, then yes he worked with Grace Kelly 3 times. He also worked with Ingrid Bergman 3 times as well [(Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), Under Capricorn (1949)]

  2. Wow, can’t wait to see this thing. Was curious to see if O’Russell would strike some kind of precious metal three times in a row. Lawrence’s best role yet?

    • The film features Lawrence at the center so in many ways, it’s her juiciest role. She’s great. My fellow critics have been rather critical of this film. I saw a different film apparently. Curious to see how this does at the box office when in opens on Christmas Day. It’s got a lot of competition.

      • For me right now my priorities are this and The Big Short. but yeah, so many other options. Can’t forget about Daddy’s Home, of course. Future classic. . .

      • That does look bad. However, Mark Wahlberg And Will Ferrell did star in The Other Guys together. I did enjoy that, so…..maybe?

      • I was gonna say, this one may turn out if it plays to the strengths of Wahlberg with Ferrell again. I actually was not so much a fan of The Other Guys, it was ok and harmless overall but i didn’t much like it. early word seems to sound more positive for this though.

      • Hmmm. RT shows 32% critical acclaim. The Other Guys got 78%.

  3. Really great review–I’ve been a little disheartened by some reviews I’ve read on Joy, but your review gives me hope that this will be another good one from that troupe!

  4. abbiosbiston Says:

    I am really looking forward to this!

  5. Eric Robert Wilkinson Says:

    Will be in my top 10 – not american hustle great but strong still

    • I’m so happy to hear you say that. For reasons I don’t understand, the critical reception to Joy has been much harsher than Russell’s previous efforts. Obviously I liked it immensely.

      I’m really looking forward to reading your Top 10.

  6. Sounds like it’s three for three for O. Russell, Lawrence, Cooper & DeNiro. Can’t wait to catch this. I was hoping for another winner from them and you’ve stoked that anticipation. Nice one, Mark.

  7. Loved it!! Would love to see it again, because I don’t understand the negative reviews this has received. Jennifer is so good. The ensemble cast was also great. Go see it! 4 1/2 stars.

    • Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro are part of his stable of actors, but he brought in Édgar Ramírez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen and Isabella Rossellini. They really added a lot of fun.

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