Girl power was on display at the Golden Globes and with the win of Jennifer Lawrence for her starring role, one hopes more people will go out to see “Joy.” The movie is loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano, a woman who at 59, is today the president of Ingenious Designs, LLC., but there’s very little joy at the beginning of the movie.
The year is 1989 and Joy (Lawrence) has lost her way. Via flashbacks we see Joy (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp as a young Joy) through her grandmother Mimi’s(Diane Ladd) eyes. Joy was once a girl with ideas and she was the valedictorian of her class, but she fell into the trap of taking care of her family. She gives up a chance to attend a college in Boston to help both her parents through their divorce. Her mother, Terri (Virginia Madsen) , has retreated into her bedroom and has immersed herself into soap operas (deliciously featuring Susan Lucci as Danica, Donna Mills as Priscilla, Laura Wright as Clarinda and Maurice Benard as Jared) . Terri got the house in the divorce, but she doesn’t work to pay the mortgage.
Joy’s father, Rudy (Robert DeNiro), have an auto repair that isn’t making money. He was married before and Mimi was his second wife. Joy has an older half-sister, Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm). Peggy helps with the books at her father’s shop, but Peggy feels that Joy is a loser, even though Peggy is alone and a touch bitter.
Rudy is divorcing his third wife (no children) and seeks refuge in the basement of Terri and Joy’s house. He’s sharing it with Joy’s ex-husband, an attractive young man named Tony (Edgar Ramirez) who can’t hold a job. To follow his musical ambitions, Tony kept quitting dead-end jobs, but that left Joy working to support him, their kids and her mother.
Mimi remembers when Joy used to dream of inventing things with her best friend Jackie, but she is now too tired, supporting all of her family, a doormat to their neediness. Only her grandmother Mimi and her best friend, Jackie (Dascha Polanco) believe in her.
Rudy begins romancing a rich Italian widow, Trudy (Isabella Rossellini). An accident on Trudy’s bought leads Joy to develop a self-wringing mop. The makes a prototype and convinces Trudy to invest. Trudy bring her attorney on board, but his specialty isn’t intellectual property. At Trudy and her lawyer’s insistence, Joy signs a deal with a California company that claims a man in Hong Kong has a similar product and Joy will pay royalties, plus buy parts that they will produce. However, the company repeatedly bills Joy for faulty parts they’ve made, claiming that it is a problem with Joy’s design. Finally, Joy refuses to pay the fees and tells her father, Trudy, and Peggy not to pay them as she struggles to find a way to market the product.
When the police confiscate her mops and her demo floors, Joy still isn’t ready to give up. Her ex-husband gets her an interview with a QVC executive Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) who sees promise in her product. His network sells things using celebrities. Walker asks Joy to produce 50,000 mops which requires more money from everyone involved, but on the day of the first sales commercial Walker’s star is unable to use the mop.
Joy still doesn’t give up but demands a chance to sell her own product. After she overcomes her stage fright wit the help of Jackie, Joy proves an able sales person. With success come more problems. The California company asks for increasingly larger sums. When Mimi dies, Rudy lets Peggy go to California to deal with a crisis, but her negotiations nearly destroy Joy’s company. Joy attempts to undue the damage, but she seems to make things worse.
Rudy and Trudy must bail her out of jail. With Rudy, Trudy and Peggy finally all turned against her, pressuring her to declare bankruptcy Joy finally finds her backbone and stands up to all three and is able to handle first all of the problems. That moment when Joy decides that she doesn’t need advisors who are also dependents, you see a new sense of confidence and determination. Instead of looking cute, she decides she need to look determined and cuts her hair.
Joy learns to sell herself without selling out. She learns to say no and she learns to believe in herself. In the end, she understand she has outgrown her father and her sibling rivalry and her biggest supporters are her ex-husband and her best friend.
Soap opera fans will recognize Susan Lucci who is most famous for her portrayal of Erica Kane on the ABC soap “All My Children. Donna Mills is another soap veteran, having spent three years on “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” and nine years on “Knots Landing,” and recently joined the cast of “General Hospital.” Maurice Benard is on “General Hospital” as a romantic mobster called Michael “Sonny” Corinthos Jr. Before that, he was on “All My Children.” Laura Wright was on “The Guilding Light” and plays Carly Corinthos on “General Hospital.” (Carly is married to Sonny and has been played by different actresses over the years).
“Joy” was written and directed by David O. Russell, who also directed Jennifer Lawrence in the 2012 “Silver Linings Playbook” and the 2013 “American Hustle.” Lawrence also won a Golden Globe for her role in the former. In her Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical/Comedy) acceptance speech on Monday at the 73rd annual Golden Globe Awards, Lawrence acknowledged Russell, saying, “Every time I’m up here, it is because of you. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for your brilliance. Thank you for teaching me so much professionally, personally. I don’t know. Your love of cinema is so pure, and you’re so untainted by all of this that you make movies like you don’t even care if anyone ever sees them. And your heart ‑‑ I mean that as a compliment.” Later, she added, “Thank you. David, I love you. I want us to be buried next to each other. I really do. OK.”
Backstage, in front of the press, when asked how she would celebrate, she exclaimed, “I am most looking forward to celebrating with Amy (Schumer who was also nominated in the same category) and David. David’s been my champion for years, and I have been his. Now I get all of his attention because I am the only cast member tonight. So it is my real dream come true. So I am going to celebrate with David. We are starting a gang. It is like high school.”
“Joy” is a great uplifting family movie to encourage girls and boys and even men and women to follow their dreams and not to lose the creative light that burned so brightly when you were a child.
You can learn more about the real Mangano who invented the Miracle Mop and found success selling things on the Home Shopping Network and QVC by visiting her website. Mangano says on the website,“I’m an inventor. When I’m designing a product, everything in my mind is about, how is it going to make your life simpler? I guess that’s just how I look at things.” The website includes a timeline she calls “One Path to an American Dream.” That timeline begins in 1990 with “Making a Better Mop” and continues to last year (“Joy Meets World”) with the premiere of the movie “Joy.”