The real Joy Mangano


This is quite possibly the most unconsciously weird film I have ever seen. Sure, there are stranger movies but even though this one seems to be a straight biopic it is filled with unrealistic caricatures, is tonally all over the place and in places is just surreal. Of course, director David O. Russell may have done all of this on purpose but if so he has worked hard to create a mess. Fortunately Joy Mangano, inventor of the miracle mop, is on hand to tidy it up.


Yep, this is her story. A true tale of how a thirty something house wife invented a self wringing mop and cleaned up. (I can’t be the first person to use that line, it is so obvious I almost feel bad writing it down.) Joy is played in the film by Jennifer Lawrence and without her this film would be hard work. That’s not to say it has nothing else to recommend it but Lawrence’s performance absolutely holds it together. 


When we meet her then, Joy is divorced, in a dead end job and living at home with her grandmother, her mum and her two kids. Her ex husband and her dad, also separated from her mother, live in the basement. Then she has an idea for a mop with a cotton loop construction and a twisting mechanism and puts what little she has on the line to build a business selling it. This doesn’t sound so odd but to this you have to add a practically bed bound mother who does nothing but watch cheesy soap operas that Joy occasionally imagines herself involved in. Lawrence is playing up the social realism but around her are larger than life performances from Virginia Madsen, Robert DeNiro and Isabella Rossellini that seem to imitate the soaps the film is parodying. 


Another jarring issue with the cast is their varying ages. At 25 Lawrence is once again in a Russell film playing a part she is really too young for (see Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) but we also have her parents, DeNiro (72) and Madsen (54), Elizabeth Rohm (42) as her step sister and Edgar Ramirez (38) as her ex. I know it is technically all possible but none of these peoples’ ages seem to correspond to their relationships to one another. It seems odd and it is another distraction from the story they are telling.


In the end though that story is inspiring. It never really feels like more than a cliched triumph over adversity, rags to riches network TV movie but I confess I welled up a little at one point. It takes an actor of Lawrence’s caliber to draw you in but she manages it. I wouldn’t particularly recommend Joy, there are much better films in cinemas at the moment, but if it comes on TV in a year, where it belongs, then it will keep you distracted for a couple of hours.


Is this one for the kids?
The film is a 12A, probably because of the adult themes of divorce and financial insecurity, but there is nothing here to make you shoo your kids out of the room if and when you do watch it at home. There is some occasional swearing but their is no nudity or violence or anything like that. The most upsetting thing is probably the gold buttoned power suit Joy wears at the end. 


In the end though this is Jennifer Lawrence in a film about a woman who invents and sells household items for cleaning your floors and tidying your wardrobe; the Hanger Games as it were. (Yikes! That line was corny too. I think it’s the cheesy nature of the film that’s got me doing it.)


The Ripley Factor:
Jennifer Lawrence continues on her feminist mission. Having headed up a massively successful female lead action franchise and shown the boys how it is done as a powerful kick ass comic book character (albeit in blue body paint) she is giving us another example of a strong women succeeding in a man’s world. 


It is great to have films telling of female independence but somehow this doesn’t feel like a key part of the movie. There is a clear ‘I don’t need a prince’ motif introduced at the start but this seems to be abandoned. In fact, despite her incredible determination and fortitude there are at least two guys who, initially at least, do save her from failure. It’s no Erin Brockovich. (Erin Mopovich? Urgh, stop it already.)


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