Some people are too big and talented to easily categorize. Joy Mangano, and the biopic Joy, clearly were too much for Hollywood to comprehend and winnow down into a simple movie trailer.
Just out on DVD, Joy is the story of a woman trapped in her messy life who risks everything on a business idea and wins. In fact, she keeps on winning. But it don’t come easy, and she has to fight every step of the way.
It’s as simple as that, and it is really compelling watching. Jennifer Lawrence stars as the title character and won a Golden Globe for this relatively unheralded movie. Some could reasonably argue that her Oscar nod should have become a full-blown statue.
The biggest trouble with the film was its trailer! Previews showed it like some cross between a family melodrama, a romance, a business story and a CRIME story! When watching the trailer I thought the whole thing was: Jennifer Lawrence lives with her screaming, fighting parents while banging Bradley Cooper, starting a business and joining the mob. Seriously. That’s what the trailer led me to believe.
In truth, Joy is in a tattered marriage with somebody other than Bradley Cooper. Her dysfunctional parents (Virginia Madsen and Robert De Niro) are divorced and live with her, but have tiny secondary roles. After losing her job and sight of who she is, Joy returns to herself and begins inventing household products that she hopes to initially sell on a small scale to get by.
An easy-to-use mop shows lots of promise, and then she spots the forerunner to the Home Shopping Channel, an ideal place to sell her new mop. With a little help from her dad’s manufacturing company, and a push from Bradley Cooper who helps run the channel—and has no romantic interest in Joy—, she becomes an overnight success.
Yet, the business world is rough, and she’s got to get tough. As such, she takes on the industry almost single-handedly with keen wits and steely nerves. There are no crime bosses. There is no mafia involvement. She doesn’t become a crime lord.
She becomes a successful Home Shopping Network-style inventor and personality with a messed up but somewhat functional family.
It is inspiring. It is based on a true story. It is very compelling. Why Hollywood needed to make it anything other than what it was in a preview is mind-boggling.
Special credit goes to the director David O. Russell for keeping the story tight and on track. It doesn’t veer off in a million directions, and it doesn’t bog down in a yelly, screamy family quagmire.
This is actually Russell’s third pairing with Lawrence and Cooper. They had previously worked together on Silver Linings Playbook (my favorite of the three) and American Hustle. Joy is strong on its own and has no plot connection to the other films. All three are remarkably different from one another and showcase the strengths of the actors and director.
Joy is a treat to watch and very inspiring for all of the budding entrepreneurs at home.
Nathaniel Cerf would probably pay to watch Jennifer Lawrence read the phone book, but he really does think this is a good flick. You can reach him at Nathaniel.Cerf@aent.com.