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Joy To The World Of Home Shopping

Updated on December 28, 2015

An old saying tells people that necessity is the mother of invention. One young mother lives that statement in the movie Joy. Based on actual incidents from the 1970s and 1980s, Jennifer Lawrence stars as Joy, an airport employee who lives in a New York home with three other generations of her family. She also helps with the books at the family's auto repair shop, which doubles as a gun range. Her father Rudy (Robert De Niro), after a failed relationship, again shares the home with his ex-wife Terry (Virginia Madsen). Joy's ex-husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez) also lives there as he pursues his dream of being a singer, which has not progressed beyond the local lounge stage. The only one of Joy's extended family not under that roof is Rudy's daughter and Joy's half-sister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm), who also works at the repair shop. The one most helpful to Joy and her situation is her Grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd).

A change comes when Rudy meets Trudy (Isabella Rossellini), a wealthy widow. One day, Trudy invites the family on her yacht, which leads Tony to bring wine that spills on the boat floor. As Joy cleans the floor with a conventional mop, she gets an idea for one that doesn't require touching the mop head while using it. She convinces Trudy to finance the development, which requires Joy to turn to a California plastics maker to develop a handle. When Joy's childhood friend Jackie (Dascha Polanco) returns to the area, she helps Joy to promote the mop and gets her help to make the mop heads. While Rudy and Peggy openly doubt Joy's chances of success, Tony uses a connection to arrange a meeting with Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), an executive with the QVC network. Walker likes the idea, and asks Joy for an order of 50,000 units. When sales don't come, Joy asks to hawk the product herself, to much better effect. Other troubles arise, though, that Joy must address.

The combination of director David O. Russell, Lawrence, and Cooper enjoyed success in their previous two collaborations - Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Joy, which Russell co-wrote with Bridesmaids screenwriter Annie Mumolo, adds to the string of good work. However, this movie is a tame and calculated effort on Russell's part. The struggles of Joy, based on real-life entrepreneur Joy Mangano, come one after another, but Russell paces these struggles a little too slowly. Joy relies heavily on the kindness her family doesn't show, but she compensates by taking confidence in herself. I particularly like the four questions sequence, where Trudy gauges how badly Joy wants to succeed with her mop. Joy, though, does present an interesting battle of wills between the title character and those who somehow stand in her way. Support from her family comes from its least leading voices.

Lawrence delivers another top-notch performance as Joy, a woman who rediscovers a belief in herself. Young Joy (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp) once enjoyed creating things for amusement, but a very uninterested Rudy showed how little he cared about this side of his daughter. Once Joy grew into an adult, she often served as the doormat to a self-centered and complacent family. The wine incident was the beginning of her assertiveness as she decided to revisit a side of herself she'd kept dormant. While opportunity easily availed itself, Joy never lashes out at her critics, but uses her experiences to learn and to grow. Experience becomes a great teacher as she learns about business and its expectations.

Lawrence and a fine ensemble complement one another. De Niro is solid as a guy who wants what he wants, and nothing else matters. Any admiration of Joy is, at best, grudging, as he pushes his feelings of failure at every turn, even ordering Peggy to pay a bill Joy disputes. He only becomes financially secure the moment Trudy accepts him. Cooper energizes the screen as Neil, a man entrusted with a new way of selling, which uses the small screen as its selling tool. He sees the perseverence few see in Joy, and he appreciates it, as well as the person behind the persevenence. Madsen impresses the walking invalid Terry, glued to her bed and her stories and her tapes of her stories. Ladd, Rossellini, Ramirez, and Polanco do very good work as well as the people who comprise Joy's adult support system. Daytime drama veterans Susan Lucci and Donna Mills appear as actors on Terry's favorite show. De Niro's daughter Drena appears as a QVC presenter, as does Melissa Rivers as her famed mother, Joan.

Sometimes, a person has to believe in themselves more than anyone else believe in them. In Joy, a woman learns to deal with detractors and distractions as she sets forth on a quest to give the world a better mop. As many underestimate her, Joy learns how to take care of her business. When family stood dismissive of her, she refused to dismiss herself. People took notice when she did.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Joy three stars. A story of a Miracle Mop, and a different kind of American hustle.


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