Here’s how it goes: We take our seats in the theatre. The previews begin. Leonard DiCaprio is mauled by a bear and buried alive. He rises from his grave and goes to seek revenge. There are shots of gunfire and falling bodies. Next preview. We see Kurt Russell dragging a bruised and battered woman into a log cabin. Images of guns, and more guns and still more guns, guns being drawn, guns being fired. The title appears upon the giant screen inviting moviegoers to “Spend Christmas With Those You Hate.” Hateful, indeed. We feel a bit battered and bruised ourselves.
Joy is a Cinderella story of a sort, but the the Joy of the title is her own Prince Charming.
Then, mercifully, the feature, “Joy,” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, begins. There are no car chases, no rapes, no beatings, no massacres, no kidnappings, no hangings, and no child abuse. (In fact, most of the people in the movie actually care about one another, and sometimes for one another, if imperfectly.) So, relax and enjoy this exhilarating tale based on the life of Joy Mangano, the inventor of the self-wringing mop (and other items you use without realizing any of them had an inventor.) Okay, my husband has never heard of the self-wringing mop, and maybe neither have you, but those of us who mop are grateful indeed for a inventor who thinks of ways to make the lives of homemakers everywhere easier.
“Joy,” directed by David O. Russell, is a Cinderella story of a sort, but the the Joy of the title is her own Prince Charming. She has to be, because she is the sole support of her two children and the sole emotional support of her dysfunctional family. The larger family includes a mother (played by Virginia Madsen) who lies on her bed watching soap operas all day and an ex-husband (played by Edgar Ramirez) who lives in the basement and sings the songs he hopes will make him the next Tom Jones. While the others pursue their pipe dreams, or disappear into the virtual dream of the small screen, Joy wonders what happened to her own dreams, the ones she had when she was a little girl who designed and built things.
After an accident (involving broken glass and spilled red wine) which Joy has to clean up, she begins imagining a better mop. She builds a prototype in her father’s (played by Robert De Niro) metal shop and begins to market it. Joy encounters obstacles, from the “What makes you think you can run a business?” variety to outright criminality in her attempts to get the business up and running.
Bradley Cooper plays the QVC executive (Neil Walker) who takes a chance on an unknown inventor. Between Walker and Mimi (played by Diane Ladd) the grandmother who always believed in Joy’s abilities, our plucky heroine fights and keeps on fighting until, at last, we see her success in full flower. You’ll cheer for her all the way.