The recently-released movie, Joy, is the third collaboration between director David O. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Loosely based on truth, it tells the story of Joy Mangano, a struggling single mother who became an entrepreneur and founded a business empire worth millions of dollars.
Sounds glamorous? When I first heard about this movie, I had no idea who Joy Mangano was or what this invention, now worth so much, entailed. The trailer doesn’t give anything away, but on closer inspection it turns out that Mangano achieved her wealth by inventing….a self-wringing mop.
Yup, that’s right: on first glance, this plot seems like a real doozy of a dull story — a movie about a household cleaning product? I can imagine Hollywood producers rolling their eyes.
But it’s not the finer details of the story that stick, it’s the overarching relatability of it — a rags-to-riches story that we know by heart. Even as children, that story is told a thousand times: Cinderella is a classic in many countries. There is something enchanting about the idea of rising from humble beginnings to achieve something great, and Joy certainly does that.
While many aspects of the story are exaggerated for artistic license and audience satisfaction (this is a movie, after all, not a faithful documentary), Joy is a much better movie than I was expecting it to be. I was pleasantly surprised.
Jennifer Lawrence is outstanding, and she is being hailed as the next Meryl Streep. Her performance as Joy is believable despite the fact that, at 25, she is young to be playing a divorcée with two children. The real Joy Mangano was in her mid-thirties when she invented the mop, but it’s easy to overlook this fact as Lawrence is so convincing.
Robert de Niro adds comedy to the movie. His interactions with Joy’s ex-husband Tony (Édgar Ramírez), who lives in the basement of Joy’s family home, brought a smile to my face in several scenes. Joy’s best friend, Jackie (Dascha Polanco), also provides a warm and supportive presence amidst the craziness of Joy’s family.
Essentially, this is a story about the American dream that enchants many of us: the belief that we can all make it, and that hard work and persistence pay off in the end. Joy even cites the American dream in the film: the belief that all races and all classes can be successful in America.
Of course, life isn’t always like that (racial inequality and poverty are very real issues) and it’s easy to express cynicism about these Cinderella stories, but the overall message of this movie leaves you feeling good. And it’s refreshing to watch a movie with a female character — a matriarch — at the helm.
Not only is it a tale about the American dream, it’s also a story about female empowerment: strong women who push through their self-doubts — and in Joy’s case, familial and financial difficulties — to achieve their own well-deserved independence I walked out of the movie theater with a spring in my step.