20th Century Fox 2 hours PG-13
How many times have you looked at a household gadget and said, "Why didn't I think of that?" Well, Joy Mangano did! And this film is fascinating and inspiring following her story thinking up inventions from age 10 to the present. Joy took the mop and made it better and easier to use. But what it took to birth her own invention wasn't easy. It was a struggle filled with lies, betrayal and tense family relationships. Unfortunately, though the cast is incredible and the acting is great, the film feels disjointed. Some scenes seem underdeveloped and it jumps around a lot.
This film brings back the winning ensemble that made Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Jennifer Lawrence plays Joy, Bradley Cooper is the serious Home Shopping Exec who finally gives her a shot to hawk her invention. Robert De Niro plays her nutty father and David O.Russell is directing them again. He also wrote the screenplay. They’ve all been nominated for Oscars under his direction and Lawrence won for Silver Linings Playbook.
The real Joy says she was honored to have Lawrence play her and says when they met, they clicked right away. They connected so well, they reportedly started finishing each other’s sentences. Some think they even look alike. Director Russell says Lawrence went into the role asking “relentless questions, and is relentlessly curious and relentlessly challenging” as an actress. He says she was determined to portray the inventor and her trials and tribulations honestly.
This is billed as a comedy, but Joy’s struggles as a young woman diving head first into the business world are not that funny. But it shows how scared she was, especially dealing with the inner workings of QVC and the Home Shopping Network as a marketing tool, with it’s revolving set and call center judging her success. There’s even a scene with Joy interacting on the set with the queen of Home Shopping, Joan Rivers, played with perfection by Joan’s real daughter, Melissa.
Joy is one of the more sane members of a very dysfunctional Italian-American family but she's pretty crazy, too. This Long Island, single Mom overcomes major obstacles to create a multi billion dollar empire and obtain more than 100 patents. She’s an entrepreneur, inventor, product designer, and a celebrity who started dreaming up inventions when she was 10.
17 years later, Joy Mangano's life is a mess. She is divorced with 2 kids, fired from working Customer Service at Eastern Airlines. She’s living with her mother, Terry, played by Virginia Madsen who is a bonafide loon addicted to daytime soaps she watches 24/7 in bed. Soap Opera icons Susan Lucci, Donna Mills, Maurice Benard and Laura Wright are actually in the movie, which is pretty funny. And Russell says, as luck would have it, Madsen was the only one on the set who actually watched Soaps and knew all the plot lines, so it was perfect casting.
There has been criticism that Lawrence is too young for the part. We can see that, especially when she’s supposed to be older at the end of the film. The makeup doesn’t make it and she looks funny as a dowager. But she excels in her performance as a frustrated woman trying to take care of her whole family while getting brave enough to go for it and tackle major business decisions to promote her mop. Along the way, she learns some hard lessons and uses tough tactics when someone tries to steal her patent, taking advantage of her gender.
Joy is so passionate about it, she talks TV exec, Neil Walker, played by Bradley Cooper, into letting her sell it herself on air. And all the time, she’s fighting with her family. She puts everyone else first before herself, including ex-husband,Tony, played by Edgar Ramirez, who is still living in her basement with her Dad. Step-sister, Peggy, played by Elisabeth Rohm, gets into the mix. The family dynamic is exhausting.
Her Grandmother, Mimi, played by Diane Ladd, always saw and supported Joy’s creativity. She encourages Joy to go for it. Her Dad, Rudy, starts dating a rich woman, Trudy, played by Isabella Rossellini. He talks Trudy into bankrolling Joy’s start up. Her Mom, Terry, played by Virginia Madsen, is still watching Soaps on TV. Madsen says here are women of different generations represented in this film.
Is this worth your bucks? The story is inspiring and an example of what not to do as well as what to do if you’re starting a business. Lawrence’s performance is earnest and intense. But the way the family is presented and narrated from the Grandmother’s point of view is somewhat hard to follow. This may not be a great movie, but it is an inspiring story. Joy may not mop up at the box office, but when it comes to acting, it’s a clean sweep.