The adage, ‘what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger’ is an apt summation of Joy the movie! According to director David O. Russell, who co-wrote the script with Annie Mumolo, Joy is based on quite a number of women who have overcome continuous and almost insurmountable obstacles in their lives. Although he insists the story is not a biography of Joy Mangano, the real-life inventor of the Miracle Mop, she herself laughingly states, ‘I severely inspired it.’
Russell did however, in an interview, talk about a unique aspect of Joy Mangano’s character. ‘Every family has someone like that. You know, that person who is an old soul! No matter their age, there’s something unflappable and tolerant and patient about them. Joy has that! She could persist no matter how many times people try to take something away.’
The talented Jennifer Lawrence clones Russell’s idea of Joy in the movie, in that she is the stalwart of the family and manages to move from crisis to crisis with the utmost patience and perseverance. Adults around Joy turn to her when things fall apart, and despite her young age, they lean on her to solve the daily problems of life.
In shouldering the responsibilities, Joy loses the creative aspect of her character and is in danger of losing herself in the process. Her grandmother Mimi, played by Diane Ladd, has an abiding belief in Joy and encourages her to explore her creative side and to unearth her latent talent.
Joy’s eventual determination to chase her dream and to launch her invention of a super-mop, gives the viewer an idea of the difficulties that would-be entrepreneurs face in the business world. An untried, almost naïve, typical, suburban, divorced, working mother of two, is understandably at a loss of where to start in creating a prototype and launching her invention. Advice from family and friends appear feasible, but Joy has to learn the hard way, that their advice has no basis in experience or lawful, business expertise.
Lawrence gives a convincing performance as the endlessly, patient Joy, while Robert De Niro plays her, loving but vocally-opinionated father. De Niro, who has changed tack from heavyweight characters, to take on more comedic roles, appears suited to the role of Rudy, the owner of an automobile garage. In an angst-filled scene with his ex-wife Terry, however, Rudy sarcastically states, ‘You know what you are? You’re a gas leak. We don’t see you, we don’t smell you, and you’re silently killing us all.’
Isabella Rossellini, daughter of screen legend Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini, plays the part of Rudy’s wealthy but recently widowed, girlfriend Trudy. The dimpled and handsome Bradley Cooper takes on the role of the savvy, executive of a promotion channel, where Joy is hoping to launch her invention. Dascha Polanco acts as Joy’s childhood friend (Jackie) and a steadfast and supportive ally, while Edgar Ramirez portrays the ex-husband (Tony) who is still in love with her. Virginia Madsen’s role as Joy’s soap drama-addicted mother, Terry, expands when she meets Jamaican plumber Toussaint (Jimmy Jean-Louis), and appears taken with him.
Twin sisters Aundrea Gadsby and Gia Gadsby share the role of playing Joy’s five year old daughter Christie while another set of twins, Tomas Elizondo and Zeke Elizondo, take on the role of Joy’s son, three year old Tommy. Elizabeth Rohm’s part as Joy’s half-sister Peggy, adds to the family dynamics but also fuels the stress-load that Joy deals with. All in all, they are a family that rely heavily on working-mother Joy, to keep the household running as smoothly as possible.
A line in the movie is particularly memorable when Joy advises young Christie, ‘Don’t ever think that the world owes you anything, because it doesn’t. The world doesn’t owe you a thing.’
Joy goes through numerous obstacles and setbacks, so much so that it can be wearying. There are many people in life who, akin to the biblical character of Job, and to Joy, keep facing difficulty after difficulty and end up wondering when the struggles will end.
Joy however, develops in strength when she emphatically stresses to Rudy and in particular her half-sister Peggy, ‘Never speak on my behalf, about my business, again.’
Critics have panned the ending as an anticlimactic one and given that Russell co-wrote the screenplay, he could have come up with a more-upbeat finish. Perhaps he wanted to avoid a Hollywood-type finale and instead elected for a more-realistic, down-to-earth completion of Joy’s journey.
Jennifer Lawrence, in her inimitable style, gives a convincing and unpretentious performance as Joy and has just received the Golden Globe for her role in the movie.
© Wendy Robinson January 2016
It is interesting to notice how some minds seem almost to create themselves, springing up under every disadvantage, and working their solitary but irresistible way through a thousand obstacles. ~ Washington Irving
Disclaimer: All the above images are from the internet.